Monday, June 29, 2009

Nazi work-out

Want to see something strange? When I'm on Facebook, as I am from time to time, I've noticed that one of the ads that it really likes to show me is this one:At first I just read the text and went, yeah, you idiots, why on earth would you target me with this ad? I already have killer abs (as discussed in this post -> here <- ).

But then I took a closer look and realized that it's Edward Norton from the film American History X. He plays a brutal neo-Nazi who murders someone in a particularly horrible way. In fact, you can even see the top of the huge swastika that he has tattooed on his chest in that picture.

Why on earth would you choose this guy as your poster boy? "Killer abs - use them to kill people NOW!" Or maybe the program says: "Step 1: get a big swastika tattooed on you. Step 2: You'd better bulk up or someone's going to kick your arse." It's just bizarre.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mostly dissatisfied

Aw man. I have wasted this entire weekend. And not "I spent the whole time at the beach"-wasted. I mean "I spent the whole time playing scrabble and reading the newspaper online while hunched up at my desk like a banker in a Dickens novel"-wasted.

The worst part is that I have no-one but myself to blame. One of my many character flaws is that if something in the Big Picture is worrying me, I become paralyzed with uncertainty and unable to focus on anything purposeful in the Small Picture. For example, while the Cold War was on, I neglected my personal hygiene. And the Global Financial Crises has resulted in my CD collection becoming parlously higgledy-piggledy.

So since this whole weekend I have been fretting and angsting about something (that I am not to go into here) I haven't been able to do anything more complex than make cheese on toast and listen to the Culture Club's hits from the 80's. Normally I would totally go for that kind of thing, but when it's forced upon you it's torture, as I'm sure those of you who were around in the 80's could attest to.

Well it's only 27 minutes until tomorrow. I'm sure there'll be a vast improvement in my situation when the clock strikes 12. Perhaps a cauldron of gold will plummet through my roof, or I will be awarded a Nobel Prize for blogging, or I'll make lots of magical friends and we'll have fantastic adventures in pixie-land. I'll let you know.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Top Ten

An email correspondent asked me a good question a few days back. If Prince's "When you were mine" was one of my favourite songs, what were the others? To be more specific, what would the list of my top ten favourite songs be?

I had a bit of a think about it and this is the list I came up with. The thing that all of these songs have in common is that they are songs that I am unable to turn off half-way through. I tend to know the songs before them on the album much better than the songs that come after them, because until I hear this song I am conscious that it's coming up any minute now so I had better pay attention. These are the songs that I bought whole albums for. These are the songs that I turn up too loud, play again and again, the songs that I didn't have to try to learn the lyrics for yet still searched for on the internet to ensure I got them right. These are the songs that feel like they are written just for me.

The list exludes classical and country since I get obsessed about different types of music in different ways and have a fairly narrow listening repertoire in those fields anyway. They are presented in chronological order of obsession, as best I can recall. Enjoy. (Or possibly not!)

Smashing Pumpkins, "Thirty-three"
I first heard this song at about 3 a.m. when I pinched the double album "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" from a housemate and listened to the whole ostentatious, pompous thing twice through in a row. I still don't know what it's about, maybe early midde-age. Whatever it is, I'm a sucker for the shimmering slide guitar, the single notes picked out on the piano and Billy Corgan's sneering, contemptuous voice singing about what seems like love.

The Beautiful South, "From under the covers"
I love the horn fanfares on this song and I always sing along with them by going "BA BA BA BA BA BAAAA". There, I've said it. Happy? Who cares that it's a daggy song about a friend who sleeps in too much?

George Michael, "Waiting (reprise)"
I can't recall how many epiphanies I've had to this song. Shame they never last. I hate this song because it is too short. It sounds like him and his guitar in a huge concert hall, mike so far down his throat he's about to get arrested. Intimate.

Magic Dirt, "Dirty jeans"
I remember sitting freezing in my car in a Canberra carpark waiting for this song to end. I love the way it turns the rock song structure inside out by keeping the same lyrics going over and over again while the music changes from verse to verse underneath it. Surfy, whistly, echoey, grungy, dirty, growly, anthemic, power chords bursting out left and right. Had to let you know!

Ben Folds, "Landed"
Heard this on triple-J when it was first released and it jumped right into me. Didn't hear it again for yonks. Acquired it years later and still love it. Ben Folds has the perfect plaintive voice for this song, and the way the melody in the interlude ripples up and down the keyboard is captivating.

The Mountain Goats, "No children"
This is a very very bleak song. Beware of its evil power and use it wisely - if you can. Muahahahah!! The music and the lyrics go bustling on merrily to destruction together and it's a jolly little trip.

Paul Kelly, "Nothing on my mind"
This is a very un-Paul Kelly song. It surges off the disc, so different from the pseudo-country rock around it that you wonder if there was a mistake at the factory. The bass comes belching out of the speakers and the guitar scrapes and groans its way through the song while the vocals are tinny, rough and repulsively idiotic. This song is so Aussie it makes me cry with happiness.

The National, "Slow show"
I was very tempted to list "Fake empire" (from the same album) here because the opening chords remind me every time of how electrified I was when I first heard them. But this is a better song. Adventure vs security, new vs old, love vs fear. It's got a big warm embracing feeling, like a kitchen with a good meal cooking - only for the last third of the song to throw you out lonely into the snow.

The Herd, "The king is dead"
Simple - good solid Aussie hip-hop about Howard's crushing electoral defeat in 2007. Shame Rudd's such a numbnut. Can't wait for Gillard to take over. Oh sorry, we're talking music, not politics. Well, The Herd lets you do both. Anyway, you gotta love the tooting accordion in the background. Plus I love songs with crowd noises. This song makes me ferociously angry and joyously happy at the same time, like some kind of crazed axe-wielding viking.

Something For Kate, "Moving right along"
No, this is not a cover of the well-known song from the Muppet Movie. This is in fact the least depressing song that Something For Kate have ever written. You could even call it uplifting. And I like it anyway!

Well that's the way we rock in my Top Ten. Happy listening. Wait - I just realized that the song that inspired this post didn't even make it in! Oh well, consider it in there anyway. It looks like my Top Ten goes up to eleven.

Saturday > Friday

Okay, so things have kind of sucked a bit recently so I don't really have anything to write about. I notice that I haven't been writing about uni so much as I used to. Maybe I'm just becoming habituated to the bizarrity of the place, or perhaps I'm starting to get paranoid that my non-Esteemed Colleagues are reading this and one day I'll wake up from a tonsillectomy to find my legs missing. Or maybe it's just been boring.

Yesterday fell fairly firmly into that category. There was a lecture on how to do an abdominal exam, which we learned back in February. There was a lecture on what will be in the psychiatry section of the upcoming exam, during which people asked all sorts of irrelevant questions, like "Will all of the psychiatry questions be separated from the neurology questions?". I dunno - maybe that's not a stupid question. I just don't see why it matters.

I was tempted to ask what font the exam would be in, or at least if he could indicate if it was serif or sans serif. Fortunately I decided that this was too flippant even for me so I didn't, and just satisfied myself with asking if it would be theoretically possible to pass the exam by not answering any of the psychiatry questions at all, since they were only worth 45% of the total. Considering the guy I asked was the coordinator of the psychiatry block I thought it did him great credit that he didn't even scowl at me.

After that we had a couple of hours of lectures about how to do good, focussed, meaningful, helpful, ethical research. Sadly, none of what was mentioned was practical for us to apply to the foolish, misguided, impromptu, shallow projects that we have to get in to the ethics committe for approval by next week. Maybe I'm being too cynical about it, but basically it's a total waste of time.

And finally, in the afternoon we had two hours from a psychiatrist about somatization disorder, which as far as I can see is a diagnosis that gets tacked onto people who the rest of medicine can't figure out or gets irritated by. The whole thing was packed to the gunwhales with mixed messages for us. "It's a real syndrome!" vs "Look at these things that used to be considered psychiatric disorders that now are known to be due to physical causes, like peptic ulcers!". Or "It's all in their head, what a bunch of complainers!" vs "You have to have great respect for your patients!". It's possible that my perception was skewed by the fact that I was asleep for some of the time but if something is so confusing that my brain would prefer to just shut down, I don't think it's being taught right.

Since I don't know how to wrap this post up in a relevant way, I'll just finish with a list of search terms that Google tells me have led people to this blog:
  • removalist
  • giraffe kidneys
  • fourier song for nerds
  • avoiding group work
  • pastali sextube (???)
  • book cover sketch of young boy in beanie with propeller
I'd say that's a pretty good summary so far.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Spider redux

Oh yeah, this morning when I opened the door of my car to get in, the spider was waiting for me. It had crawled up into the crack at the bottom of the door frame. When the door opened it went scurrying along the bottom edge of the door frame, ready to either leap onto my face and make me dance or else run into the car and hide, forcing me to let the car roll into the ocean and sink.

I got a huge adrenaline rush and kicked wildly at the spider until it fell onto the ground and I could vault over it into the car, slam the door shut and hyperventilate for a while. Once I'd calmed down I then had to figure out how to reverse my car back onto the street without crushing the spider under my wheels. Stupid guilt.

It's noteworthy that I saw the spider on Monday evening and then again on Friday morning, meaning that it had travelled at least 450 km on the outside of my car in a variety of weather conditions. That's pretty impressive. And yes, it was definitely the same spider. I recognised its beady little eyes and the carnation in its lapel.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Have you tried drinking some warm milk? Have you tried getting plenty of exercise? Have you tried keeping a daily thought diary? Have you tried going cold turkey? Have you tried counting sheep? Have you tried positive thinking? Have you tried concentrating on your follow through?

Maybe you should talk to someone about it. Maybe you should try to relax. Maybe you should try something else. Maybe you should develop your pieces before your pawns. Maybe you should read this book. Maybe you should count how many times this happens each week. Maybe you should keep it dry. Maybe you should just take one.

How about meditation? How about vitamins? How about yoga? How about some simple breathing exercises? How about keeping the window open? How about cutting up your credit cards? How about pulling in your abs? How about using a pencil instead of a pen? How about getting your name engraved on the back? How about asking a neighbour to do it? How about leaving a light on in the hall?

It might help to drink more water. It might help to make up a silly song about it. It might help to have a pet around the house. It might help if you stopped reading those scary books. It might help if you had a budget. It might help if you practised every day. It might help if you gave up meat. It might help if you wore natural fibres. It might help if you read him a story at bedtime. It might help if you turned it on first. It might help if you changed doctors. It might help if you brought a scarf.

It worked for me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Today sucked, can I have another one?

Got up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head, doo doo doo doo...

More like: slept in, remembered that a lecture had been moved, forgot about the lecture after it which I missed entirely, ran late for a group meeting because of the stupid people who drive at 70 instead of 100 because it's spitting, ate a Snickers for lunch and didn't feel really satisfied, went to the prac, it turned out to be a big fat waste of my big fat time, bought an emergency back-up pie, ate it, drove home, ate tea and toast in preparation for retirement, now wondering why I didn't just stay in bed.

What a day.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Coincidentally, we had a lecture today on anxiety disorders, which includes phobias of all kinds. Oh hi there, as I was just saying - THERE'S A FLIPPING GREAT BIG SPIDER IN MY CAR!!!!

Well, a more accurate description would be that there is a slim chance that there's a flipping great big spider in my car. I saw it this evening when I was just popping down to the shop to grab some kitty litter for dinner. It was spreadeagled across the entire width of my left-side mirror. Yes - I realize that this is OUTSIDE the car. But you know how when you drive your car off the end of a jetty into the ocean because there is a spider on your face and you've gone berzerk the car sinks? That's because the car is not airtight. Ergo, that spider may even now be finding its way into my car through some tiny crevice or vent.

I drove all the way to the shop while looking at the spider on the mirror with one eye and the road with the other eye. It really hurt, let me tell you, but that's what you've got to do with spiders. They sit there and watch you, even as the freezing air whistles past whatever they use for ears at 60 km/h, and as soon as you glance away, they move closer. That's because spiders want to jump onto your face to make you dance. So they keep edging closer and closer until they are within jumping range.

Anyway, as I pulled into the carpark I looked away, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the spider scuttle from the mirror to the door and then I lost sight of it. I parked the car and spent five minutes walking round and round the car, squatting down to look under it and peering at it closely in the dark, but carefully keeping my face out of jumping range.

I probably looked pretty strange, but I would have looked even stranger if it had got on me and I'd done that crazy, jerking dance that you do when you have a spider on you and you're trying to fling it off by shooting your limbs out at random angles while flicking your wrists, ankles and hair before stopping briefly to see if it's still on you before starting all over again.

I think that's why the idea of having a spider in my car is so horrifying to me. Given that it's a physiological/psychiatric requirement to dance around like a mad bastard, I can't imagine what might happen in the confines of a small hatchback if it crawled onto me. At the very least I would put my feet through the floor and my head through the windscreen and then I'd be left with a primitive Flintstones car. But I suspect I would just sit there immobile for a few seconds and then simply explode.

When I was about 22 I was in a small car with three friends on the freeway down to the beach from Brisbane when a spider crawled out from behind the sun visor and onto the inside of the windscreen, right in front of the driver. Fortunately we were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic at the time, because we all got out of the car without even thinking to check if it was safe. Then, as usual, the spider disappeared. We ended up taking all our luggage, in fact everything moveable, out of the car but that spider was never seen again. We continued on with the drive, each of us with one hand on the door handle just in case we had to bail out again.

It's not that I'm actually afraid of spiders. I can catch them in glasses and put them outside the house while hardly screaming at all. I can also chase them down from high ceiling with brooms and I seldom throw the broom away like a javelin when the spider runs up the handle towards me. So yeah, I'm not afraid of them - they just freak me out. There's something so alien about spiders. It's primarily to do with the way they move. As long as they are still, I am cool. One they start scurrying, all bets are off. There is obviously something programmed into human brains to make them afraid of spiders, because all sensible people are. I suspect that in prehistoric times there were giant cave spiders that we had to fight for the best caves, and those ancestral memories live on. As may the cave spiders ... somewhere ...

As I mentioned above, I can catch spiders in a glass. I learned to do this because I won't kill them. There's nothing sadder than a spider which was terrorizing you only moments ago curl up into a spastic, twitching ball because you've killed it. As much as they freak me out, I recognize that the power differential is immense and it's not fair for me to kill something just because I don't like the way it moves. If they tasted delicious it would be a different story but fortunately for both me and spiders that's not the case.

Anyway, I'll be hopping in the car tomorrow and driving for an hour with my skin crawling, wondering if the spider is in the car with me. Maybe I should shave my entire body to make my skin super-sensitive. Yeah. So if you hear on the news tomorrow that some naked, hairless guy crashed his car on the freeway because he put his feet right through the floor, that was me. Otherwise, see you round.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


When I was a kid, every now and then when I was accompanying mum doing the grocery shopping, she would splurge a dollar and buy me a Matchbox car. I loved playing with my Matchbox cars. My friends and I would drive them around on the floor, make garages out of wooden blocks, do incredible stunts, and generally have an awesome time. One of the best times I remember was at a friend's house when we played on top of an enormous mound of dirt and we carved a winding road from the bottom all the way up to the top. The road was well made in my opinion, and even the tight u-turns were broad enough to drive a semi-trailer around them.

Because I liked Matchbox cars so much, one of my favourite books was Mike and the Modelmakers, which described the Lesney factory in London where Matchbox cars were cast out of a zinc alloy, sprayed with paint, baked to dry them, then assembled with the plastic parts and packaged up to be sent all over the world for kids like me to play with.

When I was about 24, my father was digging around the house to lay some drainpipes down. To his surprise he kept digging up old Matchbox cars that had been smashed into strange shapes. He rang me up to ask me if I knew anything about it, and I had to confess that indeed it was me who had smashed them all, then buried them to hide the evidence. Dead cars tell no tales, or so I thought.

You see, a friend and I had been crashing the cars into each other when it occurred to us that if we hit the cars with a brick it would make them look like real car smashes! Awesome! So we took some cars and snuck around behind the rainwater tank where the grownups never went, got some bricks, and started smashing. The first couple were disasters, we smashed them far too hard and either turned them into pancakes or broke them into tiny fragments. After that we became a bit more nuanced in our destruction and we mastered the caved-in side, the dented fender and the crumpled bonnet. Every weekend we'd scurry off and smash up a few more until most of those cars I'd loved so much were ruined.

My family was, of course, outraged when they found out a couple of decades later what we'd been up to. I think Dad was faintly amused, Mum was cranky because she thought of those cars as hers because she'd paid for them, and my older siblings were enraged because some of those cars had originally been theirs and this was so typical of the sort of stuff that spoiled younger brothers get up to. To attempt to heal the wounds I've been giving my mother a new Matchbox car every birthday and Christmas since my crimes were discovered, but it's really not the same.

These days I have a small collection of Matchbox cars myself, mostly older vintage cars from the 30's through to the 50's since the style is so classic. I also have one or two bizarro-cars, like the one shaped like a toilet, or the replica Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. The Wienermobile used to sit on my desk at work as a conversation starter. When you've moved to a new city and you have a Real Job for the first time and you're trying to make new friends and get to know people, having a tiny hotdog-shaped car on your desk is great! People can't help asking about it. And then you can sing the Oscar Mayer Wiener song for them and everything! I'd never heard the song in person except from an American friend who knew it from his childhood, but that was good enough for me.

It got me into trouble once though, when the local section head (my boss's boss at the time) was chatting to us and for some reason that I can't recall mentioned that he was taking mineral supplements because he had a zinc deficiency. At that moment, all the useful info from Mike and the Modelmakers flashed back into my head so I said to him, "Would you like to suck on my Wienermobile?"

You should have seen the look on his face!


I like your dog, is it a schnauzer?

Scottish Wife
No, it's an Airedale.

Deaf Scottish Husband
What did he think it was?

Scottish Wife
A schnauzer.

Deaf Scottish Husband
A schnauzer? But that's a German dog!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How to write a hit song

"When you were mine" by Prince is one of my favourite songs. I like it so much that I am only allowed to listen to it every year or so because once I start listening it tends to get put onto ultra-high rotation and I end up with scars in my cortex. If you happen to be a musician, I would like you to write a song that is equally packed with awesome, so I can listen to it too! My aim today is to tell you how.

The first thing you need is a screeching, wailing vocal track. You can't just screech for the whole thing of course. If I wanted to listen to Celine Dion I would. You need to sing, preferably in a laid-back, understated way for most of the song before finally breaking into a bit of "yeah yeaaaaahh eeeaaaAAAAEEEeeeiiioooOOOAAAAEEEE!!!!" before resuming the final verse. No-one wails better than Prince. But you can try for me, can't you?

Next, you need a snappy beat. Ideally you'd have hand-claps in that "clapclap clap, clapclap clap" which I think translates into beats on 1,2 & 5 of an eight count, but hey, what do I know about music? If you can't do hand-claps, a snare might do.

Lyrically, I need a story. Sorry, but that's just how it's gotta be. You see, I was raised on country music, where songs all begin by meeting strangers in bars and end in knife-fights or weddings or both. It doesn't have to be a literal "once upon a time" narrative, it just has to hang together in some kind of sense. Just setting a scene or working through a mood is enough. Just don't hand me any "What's the frequency Kenneth" crap. Be modern in your own time, not mine. Be specific enough to interest me, but vague enough to allow me to imagine that in fact you wrote the song just for me. The best lyrics are bizarre expressions of common ideas.

The obvious corollary to the above is that your diction must be impeccable. Say what you like about Prince, he's an eloquent little bastard.

Finally, you need a great guitar solo. And by "great", I mean "having as few notes as possible". I can still vividly remember riding around Brisbane in a friend's car back in 1995 with a Lou Reed cassette slowly melting in the tape deck. At the end of one of his songs an extraordinary burst of music came forth, like the drone of bagpipes accompanying a dive-bombing Stuka. "Aah", responded my friend to my astonished cries, "one of Lou Reed's famous three-note guitar solos!" Less is definitely more. "When you were mine" fades out as a one-note guitar solo fades in over the top before disappearing into the tape hiss. One note. It really doesn't get any better than that. (I don't consider the hypothetical zero-note guitar solo to be anything other than tomfoolery, so don't get all John Cage on me if you're planning on commenting.)

So, all you famous rock stars, pop stars, dirty funk garage stars and hopeless nobodies that I know are out there reading this blog - get to work! Write me a song, dammit!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The internet is stuffed!

I can't believe it! It turns out that either the internet contains unreliable information, or else I'm not really very special at all! Incredible - either is unthinkable!

Background: it finally occurred to me to go plug in some of the other blogs that I read into (that I wrote about in this post right ... HERE) to see which literary masters (or mistresses) they ended up resembling the most (primarily to try to expand my bookshelf). Out of a sample of 5 blogs, the results were:
  1. Lewis Carroll 28%
  2. Lewis Carroll 24%
  3. Lewis Carroll 27%
  4. Oscar Wilde 24%
  5. Lewis Carroll 21%
So, either the results are garbage (a distinct possibility - garbage in, garbage out), or else I'm just one of a great horde of pissweak Lewis Carroll impersonators roaming the streets like mindless zombies, or just maybe I only like to read blogs with an eerily similar writing style to my own.

Meanwhile, the medial longitudinal fasciculus refuses to yield its precious secrets to me. I may be forced to read for more than five consecutive minutes to understand this... gasp!

The sickness formerly known as flu

I've been thinking that I am sick the last couple of days but the possibility has occurred to me that I am not. My symptoms, which collectively made me assume that I have a mild dose of the flu, are all probably due to less sinister causes.

I've got chills. They're multiplyin'. The last few days I can't get warm no matter how many clothes I put on or how many cups of tea I drink. But now I'm wondering if maybe it's because the air-conditioning was inexplicably (yet predictably) turned on in the three-hour-long block of lectures yesterday (it's winter here in the south-eastern semihemisphere). By halfway through my face was starting to go numb. I had to wrap my scarf around my mouth and nose so I was rebreathing pre-warmed air. My Esteemed Colleagues gave me some odd looks but it was worth it. The rest of my body was freezing cold and painfully tense though.

Meanwhile I've developed a strange croaky voice and sore throat. At first I assumed that I must have a tumour in my mediastinum impinging on my left recurrent laryngeal nerve, because the number of times I've heard people banging on about that in the last 18 months it must be a common or garden variety cause of hoarseness. But on the way in this morning, attempting to sing along to some early Prince (Delirious anyone?) I realized that it was probably the fact that I did the same thing during each leg of my hour-long commute yesterday that was causing me to feel like this today. Three hours of falsetto screeching in two days is probably overdoing it a bit.

The tiredness I am ascribing to a general state of ennui and lassitude that always strikes me between February and December of each year. January is a great month for me because there's nothing going on so I feel like a real overachiever. After that things take a sharp turn downhill.

Anyway, the upshot of it all is that I'm fine, not sick at all. Just a cool lazy enthusiast of Prince's early synth-pop. And there's nothing wrong with that!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Long long long weekend

Just so you don't chew off your fingernails in a frenzy of anticipation, there will be a short hiatus in my posting here while I take a break and attempt to assimilate myself back into the Real World (tm). Until I return, feel free to read old posts, add inane comments to them, or even - gasp! - start your own blog and spread the love.

Adios, amigos. Yeeee-HAH!!!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I'm an adult now

"Hey whoah - I'm all growed up! How did that happen?" I'm sure all of us have asked ourselves that question at some stage. I've asked myself that at least once a year for the past decade, a sure sign that not only am I a slow maturer but also that I'm not very observant.

But tonight something crystallized deep within the adjectivian matrix that is my mind. I knew that this was it. I have walked through the door of enlightenment. There will be no more significant personal growth for me for I now own a doormat. And I'm not talking about some metaphorical doormat of inner peace placed before the door of enlightenment. I'm talking about an actual, real world, bristly doormat. Sweet action!

Actually, I've owned a doormat for about two weeks now. But it was only tonight that the significance dawned on me. This is my first doormat. Now. At the age of you know what.

All my life I've used the doormats of other people. My parents' doormats, one after another. Since leaving home I've lived in an endless blur of rented houses, each of which came with a doormat. And never did I give any thought to it. But this house, this temple of grownuphood, had no doormat. We kept tracking in leaves and dirt. And finally I said, "Enough!"

Well, it was my Smaller Half that said "Enough!" - I tend to be pretty hopeless about noticing stuff like that. But I like to think that I would have noticed in time.

So we ventured forth and bought a doormat. We could have spent that money on coffee or music or books or toy soldiers or funky retro lamps or other fun stuff like that. But instead we invested it in our future. Our future of clean floors. That's the sort of thing that grownups do. And you know what? It felt pretty good.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dunning-Kruger effect

(Note: this is all in response to this comment.)

Oh. Bummer.

My initial hypothesis was that you were insinuating that I suffered from the Dunning-Kruger effect and hence I was so dumb that I didn't realize that EVERYONE knew all that junk about what I wrote.

But then I was like, "Hey no way, as if, nuh-uh". And I decided that you were cleverly directing me down a path of hidden and secret knowledge, like some kind of Dan Brown novel but intellectual instead of shit, and all the clues would be hidden in wikipedia, it's just that no-one noticed before.

So I was kind of disappointed in myself that I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to figure out. And now I'm even more disappointed that you have nothing more to tell me.

So I think I'm swinging back to believe in my first hypothesis again: that you're telling me I'm dumb. Well nuh-uh!

Do it!

Vote, you scurvy dogs!

I got so excited last time when 14 people voted, don't let me down now. Double figures would be nice, at least. Geez - I thought the US had a crappy participation rate.

That was the stick, now here's the carrot. I will random select one person that I know to have voted and will award them a carrot. It doesn't get any better than that, eh?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Be afraid

Further proof today that this town is a wretched hive of scum and villainy. I saw this sandwich board outside the pet store advertising guinea pigs for fighting. What kind of depraved subhuman is savage enough to get their kicks from watching animals battle to the death, yet ironically post-modern enough to do it to guinea pigs? Probably some emo high-school kids I reckon.

I showed it to my Smaller Half and she tried to tell me some yarn about how the board is actually advertising both guinea pigs and siamese fighting fish. That's utter nonsense - how could fish fight? They don't even have arms.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Gold, silver, mercury

Today I heard the phrase "gold standard" used again in a lecture for about the squillionth time in the last eighteen months. But this time I started to wonder about why that phrase is used, and to be honest, it doesn't make any sense. I think someone screwed up.

Let me explain. In medicine, the gold standard diagnostic test is the best possible test that will definitively tell you whether or not a person has a particular condition. It's also used to mean the best available test, even if it's not 100% definitive, and will presumably be replaced at some time in the future by the new gold standard. Okay - that's all fine.

But what really bugs me is that the phrase "gold standard" comes from economics (or is it commerce? anyway...) where it refers to the concept that a country's currency is freely exchangable for gold by the central bank. No-one uses a gold standard anymore - we ran out of gold. Instead, everyone now uses fiat currency, where a country's currency is freely exchangable for Italian sports cars. It seems to work just fine.

See what the problem is? The original gold standard has nothing to do with being the best. It's a literal name for a standard involving gold. But somehow along the way it seems to have become muddled up with the metaphorical meaning of gold as the number one and has entrenched itself in the heart of medicine. Is anyone else with me on this? Or am I just showing signs of frontal lobe damage?

Anyway, while I was writing this up I went off on a little wikitour and learned some good stuff. Interested? Sit down, my young apprentice, I have a tale to tell...

It seems that England used to use a silver standard so the word "sterling", which was used to designate a particular purity of silver alloy ("sterling silver", gottit?), got appended to the name of the pound ("pound sterling").

Then Sir Isaac Newton (who invented the crappy notation for calculus and got all the recognition at the same time as Leibniz was inventing a superior notation and getting none of the recognition (well, nothing but a wikipedia citation anyway)) became Master of the Mint and in 1717 effectively moved England from a silver standard to a gold standard. But the name of currency didn't change. And all the best diagnostic medical tests remained the same!

Newton was obsessed with alchemy, but his experiments got him into dire straits with mercury poisoning which probably made him, literally, as mad as a hatter. And here we are, back at Lewis Carroll again.

Poopy head

My cat is so clever! You know how cat pee causes kitty litter to clump together into a ball? Well, today when I was cleaning out her litter tray I found a nice round ball of peed-upon litter which had embedded into it two bits of poop such that the whole thing resembled a little smiley face!

It was awesome!