Maybe We Should All Be Reading Stone Tablets

The real books vs. e-books debate gets scientific. I have no doubt that if there had been psychologists back when bound books were replacing scrolls they would have have been presenting all kinds of scientifically valid evidence that scrolls were better, healthier and more natural. I am equally certain that when scrolls were first introduced there were people who criticized them for their impermanence compared to stone tablets. The new will always be bad and scary. At the same time, it’s true that, often, embracing the new means losing some useful or merely pleasant features of the old.

I like both paper books and my Kindle. What I miss most when reading a book on the Kindle is the ability to flip back to an earlier chapter to re-read something related to the latest thing I read. When I’m reading a paper book I often miss Kindle’s dictionary. I also like Kindle’s size and weight. The standard size paperback, which is the perfect size, seems to be disappearing. Many of the books I want to read are only available in hardback or the heavy, over-sized paperbacks. People say they like the way real books feel in their hands. Well, I like the way the Kindle feels in my hands. I didn’t at first. It felt awkward and there didn’t seem to be any good place to get a grip on it, but I got used to it and now I like it. Funny how that works.

Based on personal experience, I disagree with the article’s claim that e-book readers “inhibit reading comprehension” and even make it harder to remember what we read, but the article does present some interesting things to think about – about the way the brain works when reading. These are things future developers of e-book readers should take into consideration. I do think (or hope) real books are going to still be around for a long time. There is really no reason for debate. This is not like electing a president. We can have both.

On Being Positive

Here’s an excellent, thoughtful post on choosing to be happy. I sort of want to disagree with it but I can’t, not completely at least. Too often, exhortations to “look on the bright side” sound like “Don’t bother me with your feelings.” Maybe there would be fewer sad and lonely people in the world if there were more people willing to just shut up and listen for five minutes.

There is a quote, attributed to Abraham Lincoln – “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Of course, it is likely that he never said it and I hope he didn’t because it would bother me to think that he said that. Did he think slaves could just “make up their minds” to be happy or did he not think of them as “folks”?

Anyway, I think it’s more complicated than simply, “Can you choose to be happy or is it out of your control?” Everyone has both sadness and happiness in their lives. At any given moment in your life you have little or no control over how you are feeling at that moment. And it’s not necessarily a good thing to suppress sadness or other negative feelings. To try to do so will probably make you a sadder person overall.

In your life as a whole, however, I think it is possible, at least to a certain degree, to choose to be a happier person, not by “bottling up” unhappy feelings and forcing happiness but by savoring the happy moments that come naturally in your life and being more aware of opportunities for happiness – to “stop and smell the roses” as the old saying goes. My personal philosophy is, “The secret to lifelong happiness is to learn to love weeds.” (literal and figurative “weeds”) There are billions of things in the world that have potential to make you happy and most people don’t even notice them.

Random Silly Thought

People often talk about being “overwhelmed” and occasionally people say they are “underwhelmed,” which doesn’t seem to mean exactly the opposite of “overwhelmed,” but no one ever mentions being simply “whelmed”. No one is ever perfectly whelmed or evenly whelmed; they’re always either over or under. Interestingly, Firefox spellchecker did not flag “whelmed” so it is a real word. I started this just with the intention of being a smart-aleck but I then I wondered…

So I did what everyone does when they wonder about something: I Googled it. It seems that “whelmed” kinda means the same thing as “overwhelmed,” not, as I thought, the state of being not overwhelmed. So I’m thinking people started saying “overwhelmed” as a superlative – “Whelmed just doesn’t quite say it; I am overwhelmed” – and that became the standard and the word “whelmed” was just forgotten.

The English language is endlessly entertaining, isn’t it?

Oooo! A New Book!

I have irrefutable evidence that my family is the coolest in the world. My son gave me the What If? book! How many sons would give their mom a cool, geeky gift like that?! How many moms are cool enough to appreciate it? Um… well… Enough bragging. This is getting embarrassing.

This is a great gift because I love XKCD and What If? but I often forget to read it for several weeks. (There’s just too much to love on the Internet.) The book has stuff that was on the website plus some extra stuff not on the website, like Weird and Worrying Questions, to which the author gives short, smart-aleck answers. The funny thing about that is that many of the questions to which he gives serious answers are equally weird and worrying.

I got the book this past weekend and I’ve been reading one or two questions and answers a day because that seems like a better way to enjoy this book than a marathon read. Besides, I’m also reading a novel, trying to catch up on several back issues of Smithsonian Magazine, and there’s the Internet. (And there are all those other things that can’t be done with a book or a keyboard.) Anyway, very cool and interesting book. You should get it.

People Will Believe Anything

I already knew most of these: 7 Myths Nutritionists Wish You’d Stop Believing. Number 3 is the only one I really did not know and I had never even heard that rapeseed plants are toxic. It’s one of those “interesting facts” that you always hear – that canola oil is really made from rapeseed but they renamed it because no one would buy something called “rapeseed oil”. Like a lot of “interesting facts” that you read on the Internet, it turns out it’s just a myth. Most of the others I had already seen debunked. Number 7 is obviously just a figure of speech. Pardon me for saying this but, DUH!

The one that gave me a real “AH HA!” moment was #2. Diet sodas make you gain weight. For a few years, I’ve been seeing articles saying this and it not only seems illogical it seems almost like religious dogma. “It is enjoyable therefore it is a sin to enjoy it and don’t you dare think you can “cheat” by drinking diet soda. Sodas are sinful. Period. Drink them not lest thou die.” And my own personal experiences with drinking diet sodas and weight loss/gain suggests it’s not true. But, you know, who am I to doubt a Scientific Study? So, while I disbelieved, at the same time I thought, “It’s probably true, darn it.” Turns out my true feelings on the matter are spot on.

There is a name for this sort of thing: Orthorexia Nervosa (not an officially recognized disorder yet) It’s a matter of degree, of course. Being conscious of what you eat, eating healthy – this is good. What is bad is obsession and using pseudoscience to try to scare other people into adopting your lifestyle.

Random Linkage

18 Geeky Wedding Rings – In some cases it’s only the box that’s geeky but that’s still cool. Aside from being geeky there are some really nice looking rings here. I like the double helix and the R2D2 ring. The black widow rings are hilarious.

24 Blocks – a beautiful quilt site

Um… – Not to be overly critical of something that’s obviously hand-made but aren’t those lips placed in a rather odd location?

Health and Safety – Vintage Dutch health and safety posters. Some of these really make me wish I could read the language.

Wasabi – Interesting short article and a few lovely photos.

Weird Scientific Study – Maybe when you tell someone, “Your opinion stinks,” it might be more than just an expression?

Things Organized Neatly – a very nice Tumblr

It’s Nice That – great art and design website

Megatronic – a beautiful, artsy Tumblr. I especially like these.

Blue Ball Machine – It seems a little overwhelming at first but try following just one ball at a time. There. I just killed the rest of your day.

Perspective

I am a somewhat “matchy-matchy” person. (though I hate that term, “matchy-matchy”. It makes it sound like a bad thing.) It’s not about how other people see me. Even when I’m at home, with no one else here to see me, wearing sloppy sweat pants and a ragged t-shirt and fuzzy house socks (my standard wintertime attire) it all has to be color coordinated. (I have relaxed a bit about the socks in the past year.)

Yesterday morning I needed two grocery items and decided to go to the Dollar General five miles away instead of to one of the grocery stores in town 12 miles away. I had on a black and white paisley dress. I had been wearing my single strap Birkenstocks around the house but I don’t like to drive in sandals. Normally I would have worn black shoes with this dress (since it’s after Labor Day so obviously I can’t wear white shoes) but I thought, “If I wear the black shoes I’ll have to transfer everything in my purse to my black purse and I’m only going to Dollar General.” So I wore brown shoes with my black and white dress. I felt uncomfortable about it but I did it.

At Dollar General, as I was in my car about to back out, I noticed a woman walking across the parking lot. She was wearing denim shorts and a loose red t-shirt. She appeared to be in her 60’s. Overall, she was heavy but not grossly huge. But she had boobies the size of basketballs and they were on the loose, swinging free and lively, swinging and bouncing in a disgustingly mesmerizing dance, back and forth, up and down, across her chest. And I thought, “And I was worried about wearing the wrong color shoes? I really need to get some perspective.” But denim shorts and a red t-shirt… those definitely go together. I’ll have to give her that.

Quotes From Here and There

It’s hard to figure out the first question to ask when someone reads something like that, since “why” and “how” both jockey so effectively for attention.here

Tuesdays are ninja Mondays: just as bad, but you never see them coming.”there

I always include the legs – those are the scariest part. Naturalist type sites that give the size as “legs excluded” are totally missing the point.here
(I’m sure no one will appreciate this interesting bit of information but I saw a thing on Facebook that said you are never more than three feet away from a spider at any given moment. It was just one of those silly things you see on Facebook, though. Probably not true. Don’t let it keep you up tonight.)

Humans are prone to rely on examples and experiences that can be easily recalled. The idea is that if we can remember it, it must be important. This mental shortcut is termed the availability heuristic. A key drawback of the heuristic is that it leads us to overestimate the prevalence of memorable events.there

Unhelpfulness

Have you ever had a day when you had nothing at all to write about on your blog and then life hands you something?

Yesterday I saw a recipe on Facebook for some kind of fiesta bean casserole that looked pretty good but like most bean recipes it calls for canned beans. I like to use dry beans because canned beans are horrendously high in sodium and they don’t taste as good. I don’t even know why I bothered to say anything. It’s no trouble to substitute cooked dry beans. I always just guess how much to use and I’ve never had any problem doing that. But I guess it bugged me just a little that all bean recipes say to use a can of beans, so I politely suggested that it would be helpful to include the equivalent measure of dry beans for those who would prefer them.

So this morning I checked Facebook and two people had responded to my comment, telling me that low sodium canned beans are widely available. Wow! Really? Who would have thought?! Seriously, how freaking stupid would you have to be to not know that there is a such thing as low sodium canned beans? Is there anyone in the developed world who does not know this already? Besides which, that’s not what I asked. Actually, I didn’t ask anything; I made a suggestion. I did not ask for an alternative to regular canned beans. I have an alternative already. I asked for a measurement. (Or rather, suggested that a measurement be given) But anyway, I ask for a measurement, they give me an alternative. People do this all the time! If you’re going to answer a question, answer the question that was actually asked not a related question that you came up with out of your own head. (or some other part of your body) And most of all, don’t insult people by telling them something that everyone already knows!

As for the beans – are “low sodium” beans really low in sodium? I haven’t checked beans specifically but I know “low sodium” or “reduced sodium” canned soups are not low sodium at all. The regular soups may have 33% or more of the “Daily Value” of sodium per serving while the reduced sodium soup has 20%. (I happen to have a can of reduced sodium tomato soup. I checked the label) That’s still quite high when you consider that the official “serving” is only about half what a normal adult would eat and add to that the sodium in the crackers you’re going to eat with the soup and all the other sodium you will consume from various sources in a day. Personally, I do not have to limit sodium in my diet but it just seems like a good idea, at my age, to cut down when I can.

Doctor Who

We have started watching Doctor Who again. I first started watching it when Christopher Eccleston was the Doctor. I was not familiar with the long tradition of new Doctors and new Companions every few years so I was hugely disappointed when Eccleston left the show but I soon got used to David Tennant and ended up liking him very well. But then he was replaced by Matt Smith. I suppose it was partly that I took one look at a photo of Matt Smith and immediately disliked him (He always looks like he smells something nasty.) and partly that I was just put off by having to get used to a different actor yet again but I stopped watching. I did not watch any of the Matt Smith episodes. I did catch maybe five minutes of a couple of episodes when I changed channels to watch whatever it was that came on after Doctor Who and those few minutes never did anything to entice me watch an entire hour.

Now here comes Peter Capaldi, the Twelfth Doctor. I don’t know why I decided to give it a try again but I did and I have really enjoyed the first four episodes of this season, even the one with the Daleks. I really, seriously, effing hate the Daleks. I know we’re supposed to hate them because they’re the bad guys but I don’t mean it like that. I really hate them as characters. I hate the whole idea of Daleks. Worst excuse for villains ever! They’re not scary; they’re just stupid and annoying. But in the latest Dalek episode there was one that turned good for a while and that was sort of interesting.

I like the unique British weirdness of Doctor Who. It’s not what we generally think of as “good science fiction” but it’s fun. I especially liked the most recent episode, Listen, which was actually rather serious and, I would even say, beautiful. I look forward to seeing what’s next and I hope that Peter Capaldi sticks around for several years. I like Clara, the current Companion, too. I have not disliked any of the companions.

Much is being made of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, with good reason, I think. That is an incredibly long time for a television show to last and it seems that it could keep going for another 50. The long line of new Doctors and new Companions – having a way to periodically change stars built into the story – is what has enabled it to keep going. Therefore I can’t complain about that anymore, Matt Smith notwithstanding.

Random Linkage

Oxonia Illustrata – Oxford illustrations and a poem

Historic Moments – 48 fascinating photographs

Sexy Keepers of Death – a rather interesting Tumblr

Man of little brain – Amazing. You’ve gotta wonder how many apparently normal (or at least functional) people there are with brains like this.

The secret of the “crying Indian” – Wow. I had no idea.

It’s the thought that counts – Heh. I’m not sure what to think of this one.

Anna-Marie Adda – a fascinating little art gallery

Cleaning a huge chandelier – and you think you hate to dust

Distracted by Ponies – Ha! Surely this could inspire some fan fic mashup stories.

7 Fake Quotes – I actually sort of hate these kinds of posts. People almost never said the things we wish they had said.

Thought For the Week

One of my high school classmates, trying to start an off topic conversation, commented that we have no way of knowing whether the colors we see look the same to everyone. We all learn when we are very young that the sky is blue but might not what we call blue look completely different to other people? (This particular teacher often allowed us to spend the entire hour off topic but not that time.)

That is sort of an intriguing idea. I’m pretty sure we all see the same colors but what about taste. To some people (me, for example) onions are absolutely essential. Some foods just need onions. A hamburger without a nice slice of onion on it is sad and disappointing. But to other people onion is apparently one of the most frightening things on Earth. Seriously, in the grocery store deli where I worked in the early 80’s one customer became violent and had to be escorted from the store because my co-worker could not tell her whether or not there were onions in the potato salad. (Okay, so she had other issues.) But anyway… Is this merely a difference in preference or do onions actually taste different to different people?

But back to color vision. Because they see fewer colors than we do, we can get an idea of what dogs see by manipulating photographs. But what do butterflies see? And mantis shrimp? Frankly, I am eaten up with curiosity to know what the world looks like to the mantis shrimp. But we can never know, just as we can’t really know exactly how anyone else, human or animal, experiences the world – not just taste and color but all our senses and our emotional reactions.

That is my thought for the week: We can’t know how anyone else experiences the world. It might be helpful to keep that in mind when trying to deal with difficult people.

Not Sewing

Updated

I have not done any sewing (not counting a little quilting) in more than a week. In my entire sewing life that’s not unusual. There have been times when I went for several weeks without sewing. When I had what people like to call “a real job” there may have been months long sewing droughts. (I really can’t remember.) But now, having spent many months of always having at least one project in progress, and having not done everything I had in mind to do this summer, it’s a little disturbing to not be working on anything.

I am in that confusing between seasons phase. With temps still in the 90’s F, I have been in the mood to keep on sewing summer dresses but because I know it won’t last much longer I don’t want to sew something I might wear once and then put away for six months. Today it’s cool and feels very much like fall so I should be inspired to start fall sewing but still, I don’t know what I want to sew next. The cure for this of course is more shopping and I have a couple of ideas – things I could get excited about right away – that would require purchasing more fabric but I grew up in a penny pinching household and I still have that instinct. I feel guilty about every purchase, even necessary ones. Besides, I have extremely limited storage space for fabric.

So maybe I should just forget it for a while and spend more time working on the quilts, one of which I really, seriously need to finish because it was supposed to be a Christmas present two years ago. I lost my enthusiasm for it because it’s not looking as great in reality as it did in my head. But I will finish it. Other than that, I’m working on a baby quilt that is coming along pretty fast and I have a couple of tops planned (one already started) that I could work on. So it really wouldn’t hurt to just work on nothing but quilting for a while but there’s still that voice in my head saying, “Sew something. Come on, hurry up and start something else – a dress, a blouse, pants. Come on, sew, sew, sew!”

UPDATE: Forgot to mention, I just found out about the Cat Lady Sewing Challenge yesterday (Thanks Rochelle) and it just so happens that I do have cat fabric in my stash – two pieces, in fact. One is from my mother’s stash. I’ve already cut up part of it for a quilt top but there’s about a yard left and I want to match it with something else to make something to wear but I want it to turn out to be something I love so I’m not going to rush into it. The other cat fabric is some I purchased this year and already know what I’m going to make with it. The colors are spring not fall but I’m thinking of making it for the challenge anyway.

Quotes From Here and There

Surely, someone who believes that saying “Satan,” repeatedly, to a glass of water will alter the water’s physical properties needs to be treated with a dash of skepticism—no?here

Of course it being the dictum that on the editorial front one must kill ones babies you’d think I should attack these sections more, or that later editorial input would see them getting chopped up. This is not the case, because that dictum is crap.there

What exactly went on in this room, with its wall of windows, high work tables, and piles of fabric on the side?here

It is a short trip, however, from banning someone for being a genuine troll, to using the label “troll” to ban someone who is simply expressing a contrary opinion. This can go from basic hygiene to sanitizing a site of any impurity of thought or opinion.there

The labelling of classical tracks on Amazon, where they offer you little snippets to listen to, is routinely done by naming the pieces with such things as their tempo or loudness markings, while neglecting to tell you what the piece is or what number movement it is. They just can’t be bothered to get it right.here

It is great to be around machines that make you laugh. We spend most of our days with machines that haven’t a funny bone in their bodies, machines that turn us into dour button-pushers, machines that conceal their workings in casings that cannot be opened, machines that invalidate their warranties if you even think about repairing them on your own, machines that are more likely to evoke a groan than a smile.there