Random Thoughts, Observations, and Complaints

To whom it may concern: When you are turning, please move all the way over into the turn lane. (if there is one) Don’t slow down to two miles per hour with two wheels in the turn lane and two in the regular traffic lane. We can make an exception for 18 wheelers but anyone with four wheels or fewer… no excuses.

Dear Mother Nature: Are you drunk? Have you been doing drugs? It’s October! Not that I really mind 85°F. I’m a warm weather kind of person. I just worry that you might try to make up for all this nice weather a couple of months from now with several weeks of -10° and a foot of snow, or worse, half an inch of ice. Please don’t do that.

Chocolate flavored cereal is always a little disappointing to me. It seems like an awesome idea but it’s never quite good enough. That said, Fiber One 80 Calorie Chocolate cereal is not bad and 80 calories per serving? That’s almost kinda like a little miracle. (This is not an advertisement. If it had been an advertisement I would have used the word “awesome” again.)

October? OMG! It’s October! I need to start the online Christmas shopping already or at least start thinking about what to get everyone. (And there’s a very important birthday in the family in less than two weeks!)

Speaking of early Christmas shopping, Lowe’s had their Christmas decorations out already in September! Way, way too early. At least wait until after Halloween. Halloween decorations are nice too.

Though I haven’t mentioned it lately, I have been sewing. I’m actually working on several things. I usually never work on multiple projects at the same time. It just makes me feel more like I’m not getting things done. Anyway, I might get around to showing off something tomorrow. Or Friday. Or someday.

The Curious Brain

Interesting article about curiosity and learning.

The study revealed three major findings. First, as expected, when people were highly curious to find out the answer to a question, they were better at learning that information. More surprising, however, was that once their curiosity was aroused, they showed better learning of entirely unrelated information (face recognition) that they encountered but were not necessarily curious about. People were also better able to retain the information learned during a curious state across a 24-hour delay. “Curiosity may put the brain in a state that allows it to learn and retain any kind of information, like a vortex that sucks in what you are motivated to learn, and also everything around it,”

I think it’s interesting that they also found that the brain’s reward system is involved in curiosity and learning. My immediate thought: “Well, I could have told them that!” Finding out stuff feels awesome. People who don’t seem to be curious about anything puzzle me. I always wonder what’s going on in their heads if they have no curiosity. What do they think about if they’re not wondering how things work or why things are the way they are? Their lives must be so dull and sad.

What makes some people curious and others not? Everyone is born curious but as we grow up we are gradually conditioned to be less curious. Most parents encourage curiosity, up to a point, in very young children but I think there are probably very few parents who actively lead their children in satisfying their natural curiosity. Busy parents often give short answers that really mean, “Don’t bother me right now.” As children get older and peer pressure kicks in the number of things about which it is acceptable to be curious is greatly reduced and open displays of curiosity are considered “uncool”. Even among adults, people who are openly curious are considered a bit weird.

Lucky is the child who grows up observing his or her parents being curious. Just as the children of people who read books grow up to be readers of books, the children of curious parents retain their early childhood curiosity into adulthood. A few of these children grow up to be scientists and inventors. Many more simply grow up to be adults who continue to find wonder in the world and are rarely bored.

Random Linkage

The Crooked House of Windsor

Oxygen Thief – Sounds like it might be dangerous to be in the same room with this stuff.

Mysterious Tower

Things that make kids cry – Some of these are hilarious. I like the corn dog kid and the pennies kid.

Shadows – Some (maybe all) of these are obviously deliberately arranged or Photoshopped but they’re still neat pictures.

Unusual Corner – Unusual cars and other vehicle related lists.

Beautiful Chemistry – Photos and videos of chemical structures and reactions

Aerial Design – Carpeting designed to look like aerial photos

Our Nerd Home – Nerdy art and home decor

Haiku – I wonder what grade this kid got.

Large Leaf Grass of Parnassus – Beautiful! I have never seen one of these before.

Nylon Journal – Interesting tights, leggings, and socks

Flowers that Look Like Other Things

Quotes From Here and There

Honestly, on the off-chance that I have kids one day, this scene is how they are learning the alphabet.here

From what I can make out, our indignant Guardianista is upset that some white female celebrities have been happily drawing attention to their fulsome hindquarters, which are, it seems, the latest must-have fashion item among the suggestible and insecure.there

Jackson’s life seems to have been generally free of drama, which surely disappoints anyone looking for demons and skeletons in her personal closet to account for the apparent darkness her imagination often generated.here

I wept, and wept again at the inequality of the universe, and then considered that what I save on gas I can spend on MORE HelloKitty stuff…there

Class Has No Expiration Date

Oh, this might get me in trouble with some people but I’m going to say it: Yes, definitely, sexy does have an expiration date, though the photos of Tina Turner and Cher (the latter obviously airbrushed) seem to suggest otherwise. Seriously, Cher didn’t look that good when she was 30. She couldn’t because they hadn’t invented Photoshop yet.

I don’t have any particular problem with cosmetic surgery as long as it’s subtle and not overdone. If I had the money I would definitely go there myself someday. But “sexy” is not the only way to be attractive. Grace, dignity, charm, elegance, style, class – these are attractive alternatives to sexy at any age but older women should absolutely aspire to these qualities instead of trying to be “sexy”. And I think there might be some debate as to what, exactly, is sexy. Is Miley Cyrus sexy, or merely skanky?

Now I know someone out there is thinking “sex sells”. Don’t say it. Everyone knows that. But why does what sells always have to rule our attitudes and behavior? If seeing a sixty year old in her underwear makes you want to buy some like them for yourself, fine. Go ahead, buy. Then go home, put them on, then put a nice, modest outfit on over them and hold your head up and feel good about yourself, whatever your age, whatever your style. Don’t copy your style from a model in an underwear ad or from a celebrity who has cosmetic surgery done so often it could be considered a hobby.

We older women should be leaders, not followers. We should be setting the example for younger women not copying them. Not that they will follow, at least not immediately. They’re too busy following the latest trends. But eventually every normal woman gets tired of all that nonsense and just wants to be herself.

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.