Friday, July 31, 2009

A Post in Which I Use the Word "Danky". Twice.

This post may end rather abruptly. You have been warned. It is about a basement. Namely, mine. Actually it's not even technically a basement, because it's structure is above ground. Though it's located underneath my house (which is built on stilts on one side and into the hillside on the other) it is actually built at ground level. I call it a basement because A. I have to go outside to gain entry like at Grandma's old house, and B. it is dark and danky. And sometimes spooky. It would be an easy place to forget about. I have a few things on shelves down there, but they were put there with the understanding that I wouldn't need them anytime soon... And it wouldn't matter too much if theses things became mice nests during the winter months and spider havens in the summer. The stuff I have in storage down there is mostly that of forgotten memories... Old cd's and stuff of that ilk, and not stuff that I would need in an apocalyptical revolution, if that occasion were ever to suddenly arise itself. Unfortunately my basement isn't a place that can be forgotten and left to rodentia. It is the location of my laundry facilities. I am big fan of clean underwear (mine and hers) and I brave the elements at least two or three times a week to make sure that I have a pair or two handy. Believe me, on those nights that I work late and have to go down after dark, the journey serves it's share of goosebumps. Even though a clear path is worn to it's entrance, I still have to venture through trees that surround my house and also the spiderwebs that connect those trees to my house. Generally these are not the spiderwebs of the tiny jumping spider or the harmless grand-daddy-long leg, but the extravagant ones that are big, circular and complex.. Designed by dime-sized ginourmous eight-legged architechual geniuses. So, the venture usually puts me on the defensive before I even get to the prize. The prize in this case is the washer and dryer of course, and the only reason for such a trek through the web infested darkness. A man must have clean clothes... At least this man. As uncomfortable as the journey is, it serves it's purpose. Standing in the danky concrete room to switch out clothes or to retrieve an armful to bring back to the house can be a spooky situation to the untrained mind, but something that I have gotten used to. The room is warm and damp, but not well lit. Long strange shadows encompass it's corners and the area behind the washer and dryer, and also the shelves which contain the boxes of forgotten memories that I mentioned earlier. Spiderwebs are prevalent, but mostly reside up high in the wooden rafters. With no reason to linger, time spent in this room is usually brief. It only takes a second or two to switch out the clothes from the washer to the dryer. If there happen to be clothes that are already dry, it doesn't take much longer to shove them into a basket to make for efficient carrying back to the house. A basket of clothes allows for a friendly buffer on the expedition back to the house, and because of the original trek down the path, most of the spiderwebs have been cleared. But it is still dark, and it is still "the woods" where nocturnal creatures are being well... Nocturnal, and you aren't always able to see what may be lurking right in front of you. (To date I have yet to encounter any of these nocturnal creatures, but doesn't that just increase the odds of it happening soon? I hope not... So much for clean underwear.) With that, I am going to call this a stopping point.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Scary Science

Bob Dylan said "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." I think that logic applies here. I just read about a new study that proves that frightening music can be even scarier when one has his eyes closed. The headline reads: Scary Music Scarier with Eyes Closed. Initially I was puzzled to why this study was even conducted. After all, isn't everything scarier in the dark? But after reading the article, I see there is much more at work here. The article claims that people often close their eyes to feel more immersed in music. This causes brain waves to be altered, and the music charges emotions which are amplified from the mood the music is meant to generate. In other words scary music is scarier, and as the article explains, other emotions are amplified the same way whether the mood of the music is meant to be positive, mellow, or angry. Basically, as I understand this study, EVERYTHING is amplified when one closes his eyes. I find this is true most of the time, but especially when I am trying to sleep. It doesn't matter if I am listening to music, or talk radio, or even noise from the television. When I close my eyes for an extended period of time, I tend to sleep. I am positive that this would not be as easy if my eyes were to remain open. In fact, I have tried it. It's virtually impossible. On the contrary, I find that my ability to drive a car weakens drastically when I close my eyes. It doesn't matter at all if the car radio is on or off. It becomes a struggle to keep the wheels between the lines, and it's extremely hard to anticipate the turns and street signs. Even with the radio blaring Don't Worry... Be Happy, this is quite a chore. It's one of those cases where the study is completely wrong, because even though "positive" music is playing, the feeling I am overcome with is not blissful, but more like extreme terror-anticipation. Opening the eyes generally makes this horrible feeling vanish immediately, which is a nice recovery... Unless of course I am in the direct path of an oncoming road grader. Then the terror-anticipation thing starts all over again. This seems like a good avenue for these scientists to take. Would "happy music" make the experience better for a person if it was played while feeding that person to lions? Although it might create a momentary distraction, I doubt it. Even Bobby McFerrin couldn't make that a pleasant experience. But why not explore this theory? It makes about as much sense as conducting a study to see if closing one's eyes can amplify emotions derived from music. In other words, this study is one of those that generally confirms what we already know. But at least with the lion feeding experiment, it would be a lot less boring. If you are curious about life's little (real) mysteries, I suggest going to this site. It's not science conducted by studies, but scientific facts. It's interesting and fun, and it might actually contain a factoid that you didn't already know. And... Nobody gets hurt.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lesson from a Fourth Grader

I am the food service director at a summer camp. At every meal I deal with special diets; it's part of my job to be flexible and diverse when it comes to serving vegetarians, food allergies, Celiacs, lactose intollerants, or any other camper that has a specific need. Last week I served a young girl named Shasta, who is Muslim. Because it is a violation of her religion to eat pork, I adjusted an individual menu for her as a provision of her faith. I prepared dishes that contained cheese, beef, chicken or turkey for her and had no problems until on Thursday night we served double chocolate smores brownies as a dessert. "I can't eat this. It has marshmallows in it," she said. "Sure you can, Shasta," I said, laughing. "It doesn't have pork in it." "Yes it does." She replied. "There is pork in marshmallows... From the gelatin. Gelatin is made from pig-hide." My first instinct was to argue with the young 4th grader. After all, we had served this dish several times to die-hard vegetarians (and one Jewish counselor) who had no qualms about eating it, most of whom even commented on it's deliciousness to me or my staff. Suddenly a little girl is telling me that it was a violation of the her religion to eat the dessert. I decided not to argue with her. "No problem, Sweetie... Let me get you a cookie or something else." After the meal was served and the kitchen was cleaned up, I went to my food guide and looked up Gelatin. Honestly, I wasn't surprised to read that gelatin is indeed made from pig skin (and possibly horse hoof fragments too). I was impressed with the little girl not only because of her knowledge of what foods she can or cannot eat, but also because here she was miles away from her mother and father, or anyone else who could enforce such a rule on her. Clearly for a child to resist such a tempting treat, it would take a high level of will power. I admired her tenacity on sticking to her religious vows. I cant help but wonder about the vegetarians I serve every day. Most are counselors, teenage girls who seem to take a lot of pride in their choice to avoid meat. I'm not sure what their choice is based upon, whether its animal rights, or the health factor. I find it very hard to believe (and a little bit disturbing) that one would become a vegetarian because it is a "cool thing to do". I do however find it incredibly ironic that they shape their choice to suit their own needs. In other words, their vegetarianism seems to go out the window when it comes to double chocolate marshmallow desserts*. I found it quite enjoyable to tell the vegetarian counselors that they aren't allowed to eat marshmallow-based desserts because they contain meat. After all, I figure I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't. But either they do not believe me, or do not have the will power that a certain 4th grader named Shasta has. My guess is the latter... And that it probably wouldn't be too cool to pass up such an angelic temptation. *I also find it ironic that these vegetarians eat eggs, which essentially is partially formed meat... But that is a post for another time.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The More Something Changes...

...The more it stays the same? I admit, I am a little bit confused and maybe just a bit intimidated by the "new" blogspot. A couple of years ago I blogged at this domain and got quite acclimated to it's easy system. Now it's all new to me, and seems less user-friendly. I have to figure out all over again what used to be simple tasks, such as adding links to my page on my sidebar, adding and editing comments, knowing how to add Html codes, how to add photos, etc. Nobody is even aware of this blog at this point. But if you get lost on the super highway and happen to stumble down this dead-end road of the world wide web, and you have advice for me, lets hear it! Meanwhile, I will just be here hanging out admist the backdrop of chirping crickets.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Language Art of Lying

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. I've been contemplating this pangram over and over in my head lately. It's simple enough... A basic sentence... Seemingly meaningless. Why does it continuously echo itself off of the canyons of my mind? Once upon a time in the golden age of the typewriter, before the electronic age brought us the word processor and later the laptop computer, this sentence was used to test the ink ribbon on typewriters. A pangram is a sentence that contains each letter of the alphabet. If one individual key on the typewriter isn't working properly, this simple little phrase allows one to differentiate which particular key is out of function. This would seemingly work also: abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz Who came up with the little phrase? Somebody who is very good with words, apparently, but not so savvy with their knowledge of animals. Any 4th grader knows that a fox would never venture close to a dog, whether that dog is lazy or not. Foxes are extremely timid and scatter at the mere scent of humans, dogs, and other predatory creatures. And does a Brown fox even exist? I've only seen red ones. That's how my mind works... I don't look at a Rubik's cube and marvel at it's complexity. I look at the person solving it, and and am amazed with their complexity. Logistics are important, and I understand the pangram's purpose, but what is the point of encouraging one aspect of intelligence (as writing) while totally debunking another (animal science)? In theory, doesn't the false statement about foxes cancel out the point learning what the writing exercise is meant to teach us?