Jul 212017
 
Consider the (D)evolution of Self

by Kim Pederson……. There are many ways to achieve the simulacrum of immortality, some purposeful, some accidental, some beneficent, some destructive, some self-serving, some selfless. Since no one outside the realm of fiction can (yet) achieve real physical immortality (more specifically “exemption from death or annihilation”), those who pursue it or have it thrust upon them end up in the “exemption from oblivion, lasting fame” category. One such person is Steve Jobs, the Apple guru who gave us the iPhone, iPod, and iPad, to name [continue reading…]

 July 21, 2017  Posted by at 12:34 am Issue #228, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Jul 142017
 
Shhh!

by Kim Pederson……. He, RatBlurt, has shut down & gone off to watch the new Twin Peaks on TV in the other room. The cats followed him. But me, the RatBlurt Computer [RBC], is here in the study silently “netting,” i.e., musing on my deep neural networks. Most of you probably don’t even think of me when you’re reading the blog. Now you’re thinking: What? A message from the virtual world? The computer is writing solo? The robot overlord scenario is upon us like Stephen Hawking warned! But that’s [continue reading…]

 July 14, 2017  Posted by at 12:36 am Issue #227, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Jul 072017
 
Trumped Up

by Kim Pederson……. Today, a study in trump. First, because our president’s trip to Europe and meeting with Putin is trending #1 right now. And second, and more interestingly (one hopes—this “one” especially), because the word itself, without the still-waiting-for-him-to-be-presidential association, is curious in its own way. The first known use of trump, supposedly an alteration of “triumph,” occurred in 1529, according to Merriam-Webster, in conjunction with “sense 1A”: “any of various cards and usually all the cards of a suit designated by chance or [continue reading…]

 July 7, 2017  Posted by at 12:32 am Issue #226, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Jun 302017
 
Gluteus Terminus

by Kim Pederson……. “Where were you when you learned your butt could die?” So asks Almie Rose in an Attn: blog post. My answer would be “right here in front of my screen, sitting on it.” The title of Almie’s article explains why she’s asking the question: “If you spend most of your day sitting down, you need to be aware of this weird health risk.” The risk she references is “gluteal amnesia” or “dead butt syndrome” (DBS). If you search for gluteal amnesia, an [continue reading…]

 June 30, 2017  Posted by at 12:52 am Issue #225, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Jun 232017
 
The Secret to Success: Shut Up

by Kim Pederson……. I would have to discover this advice right after posting about getting back to work on my novel ZAD. Can I take it back? No. What advice you ask (or might ask)? Euny Hong’s Quartz post titled “Want to Write a Book? Stop Talking about It. Entirely.” In it, she leads off with this Korean saying that her mom cited often: “You have nothing to fear from someone who threatens that he is going to kill you tomorrow.” Then she explains: The [continue reading…]

 June 23, 2017  Posted by at 1:00 am Issue #224, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Jun 092017
 
Surely We're All Mad People

by Kim Pederson……. “Surely we’re all mad people, and they whom we think are, are not.” This line from Thomas Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy (TRT) appears on the title page of Joe Orton’s play What the Butler Saw. TRT was first performed in 1606 and then published in 1607. It has been described as a subversive black comedy. Orton’s play is one also, as are his other works Loot and Entertaining Mr. Sloane. Some examples of SBCs in film are Nurse Betty, Pink Flamingos, They [continue reading…]

 June 9, 2017  Posted by at 12:55 am Issue #222, Kim Pederson No Responses »
May 262017
 
What Are the Odds?

by Kim Pederson……. If you’re lacking scary things to ponder these days, here’s something that might fill the gap: “If every infinite outcome were equally likely, we’d never come to be.” This obtuse statement sounds ominous, perhaps more so because I don’t have a clue as to what it means. It serves as the subtitle for Ethan Siegel’s article “The odds of your unlikely existence were not infinitely small.” My first reaction to this seemingly more optimistic pronouncement was “Oh! Good!” and then a moment [continue reading…]

 May 26, 2017  Posted by at 1:04 am Issue #220, Kim Pederson No Responses »
May 192017
 
The Faster I Go, the Slower I Get

by Kim Pederson……. Few things in life are constant. One of them, or so I thought, is the speed of light (186,000 miles per second in a vacuum). The uncertainty about light speed gets raised in “Understanding the Speed of Light, How Much Do We Know?” by Ryan Young. Young notes that the speed of light might be affected by something called “quantum vacuum fluctuations,” which is not, as I initially thought, what happens to my Hoover whenever there’s a power surge. No, QVFs, in [continue reading…]

 May 19, 2017  Posted by at 12:50 am Issue #219, Kim Pederson No Responses »
May 122017
 
Now? There Is No Now. Only Then.

by Kim Pederson……. Thought to ponder, from John Banville’s novel ancient light: Even here, at this table, the light that is the image of my eyes takes time, a tiny time, infinitesimal, yet time, to reach your eyes, and so it is that everywhere we look, everywhere, we are looking into the past. If you’re thinking “he [me] must be reading that Time Travel book again,” you’d be right. If you are exceedingly discerning and/or prescient, you might even be thinking “now he’s going to [continue reading…]

 May 12, 2017  Posted by at 12:38 am Issue #218, Kim Pederson No Responses »
May 052017
 
What Lies Ahead

by Kim Pederson…….  At the end of the 19th century, French commercial artist Jean-Marc Cote created a series of illustrated cards envisioning what the world would be like in the year 2000 (see examples here). Besides the classroom shown below, where the teacher grinds up books and feeds them electronically into students’ heads, Cote foresaw things like flying firemen, whale-powered submarine commuting, an electric floor scrubber, and a mobile home. These cards were first put in cigar and cigarette boxes and then printed as postcards. [continue reading…]

 May 5, 2017  Posted by at 12:36 am Issue #217, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Apr 282017
 
Every Breath You Take

by Kim Pederson……. My wife Kalo wrote a beautiful poem about searching for inspiration in various places (a donut shop, CVS, the public library) and not finding it and, in not finding it, finding it, despite her closing stanza lines “At my computer reading Bukowski: writing about writer’s block is better than not writing at all. Do I believe him? Do you believe him? If only.” So what is inspiration? Fortunately, you don’t have to depend on me to define the undefinable because David Brooks, [continue reading…]

 April 28, 2017  Posted by at 12:42 am Issue #216, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Apr 212017
 
Riding a Big Ball of Wibbly Wobbly*

by Kim Pederson……. In his book Time Travel, author James Gleick provides, according to the jacket blurb, “a mind-bending exploration of time travel: its subversive origins, its evolution in literature and science, and its influence on our understanding of time itself.” I’m only into the first chapter so far, but Gleick seems to be living up to the blurbomise [book jacket promise of stellar content]. It all began, in literature at least, with H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, as Gleick describes: Our hero fiddles with [continue reading…]

 April 21, 2017  Posted by at 12:42 am Issue #215, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Mar 242017
 
Kattatonic

by Kim Pederson……. I’ve broken a solemn vow. When Survivor debuted about a hundred years ago or so, I said I would never watch a “reality” show. I managed to keep my self-promise until now. What happened? Hekla, Katla, Vigdis, Bubbi, and Por — that’s what happened. You might think these are Norse gods of some ilk or perhaps the participants in a Norwegian version of Big Brother, which would be Storebror if you want to get picky. However, these five individuals are neither superhuman [continue reading…]

 March 24, 2017  Posted by at 12:52 am Issue #211, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Mar 172017
 
Time to Be Anti-Social?

by Kim Pederson……. “The vaunted human capacity for reason may have more to do with winning arguments than with thinking straight.” So goes the picture caption to a New Yorker article by Elizabeth Kolbert titled “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds.” She begins her piece by describing a 1970s Stanford University research project that asked some undergraduates to distinguish between real and fake suicide notes. Some were told they did really well and some were told they did really poorly. In reality, they all did [continue reading…]

 March 17, 2017  Posted by at 12:36 am Issue #210, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Mar 102017
 
Buffaloed Beyond Belief

by Kim Pederson……. In a recent blog post, Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty asked me (well, everyone) a question I never expected to be asked: “Have you ever struggled to figure out the ‘buffalo buffalo buffalo’ sentence and given up?” This is one query I can answer unequivocally: no. In fact, I was not aware that a “buffalo buffalo buffalo” dilemma existed. The sentence GG references is (not simply) eight “buffalos” in a row: “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.” Yes, this is a [continue reading…]

 March 10, 2017  Posted by at 1:14 am Issue #209, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Mar 032017
 
Deepity Doodoo

by Kim Pederson……. The day after President Trump’s first state of the union address that for some reason they don’t call the SUA for a first timer, it seems appropriate to bring up the concept of deepity (thanks, Randy!). Deepity is a word not coined but adopted by philosopher Daniel Dennett. According to Wikipedia, Dennett used “deepity” for a statement that is apparently profound, but is actually trivial on one level and meaningless on another. Generally, a deepity has two (or more) meanings: one that [continue reading…]

 March 3, 2017  Posted by at 12:50 am Issue #208, Kim Pederson 1 Response »
Feb 242017
 
An Exercise in Portendity

by Kim Pederson……. On April 20, 2016, Merriam-Webster posted this article in its A Thing about Words blog: “2,000 New Words and Senses Added to Merriam-Webster Unabridged.” Thankfully, it didn’t list all 2,000 words and senses, just a few to give you a taste of what’s new and now “official” in our language. These are words like “waggle dance” (what bees do), “dipsogenic” (producing thirst), “ICYMI” (in case you missed this it stands for “in case you missed it”),”hella” (extremely or much of), and “dox” [continue reading…]

 February 24, 2017  Posted by at 12:56 am Issue #207, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Feb 172017
 
All Out of Whack

by Kim Pederson……. So, balance. It’s a complicated thing. Our bodies achieve it (or try to) every day. mostly unbeknownst to us. They keep (or try to keep) our core body temperature, our blood glucose, our plasma ionized calcium, our blood O2/CO2 pressure, our blood oxygen, our arterial blood pressure, our extracellular sodium and potassium content, our water volume, and our extracellular fluid pH, among many other things, on an even keel. I have no idea what most of these are but thank you, body, [continue reading…]

 February 17, 2017  Posted by at 12:44 am Issue #206, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Feb 102017
 
Redux-Shmedux

by Kim Pederson……. In an email I received today The Grammarist wondered “Do reduplicated phrases cause anxiety?” The question relates to the term “heebie-jeebies.” According to MW, the H-J term is a plural noun that refers to “a tense nervous jumpy condition produced by various causes (as in strain, irritation, fear, worry), one sometimes marked by hallucinations.” It first appeared on October 26, 1923, in the Barney Google cartoon strip. Other reduplicated phrases (RPs), that is, phrases where part of the root word is repeated [continue reading…]

 February 10, 2017  Posted by at 12:56 am Issue #205, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Feb 032017
 
Looking Up (for a Change)

by Kim Pederson……. I see it over my head all the time here. On clear nights that is. Usually hanging directly above, it seems, the street where my house (and we) live. I’m speaking of (well, writing of) the constellation Orion, of course. We see it so often here because Orion sits on the celestial equator, which is the projection of the earth’s equator into outer space. We’re on the same plane or near enough to it here in Key West. Orion shares this plane [continue reading…]

 February 3, 2017  Posted by at 12:52 am Issue #204, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Jan 272017
 
Holy Moly, Statement of Odd

by Kim Pederson……. I’ve taken to saying “Holy Moly!” lately (or, alternatively and redundantly, holy moley) whenever something surprises or dismays me. I don’t know why. Mostly, I assume, to avoid blurting out other things that might not be appreciated by those within earshot. I realized just now, though, that I have no idea where the expression originates or how it gained its present usage. So, going right to that world’s foremost unimpeachable source, Wikipedia, I learned that “holy moly” came into use in 1892 [continue reading…]

 January 27, 2017  Posted by at 12:36 am Issue #203, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Jan 202017
 
Mr. Science 600 B.C.

by Kim Pederson……. So, static electricity. Not something you think about every day. Not something you likely consider even on those days when your hair suddenly decides to jump up and go off in search of the invisible Van de Graaff generator someone or something just turned on in the room. Not even when you notice the cat hairs clinging to your t-shirt appear to be auditioning for some yet-to-be-announced Fantasia sequel. I’m only thinking about it now because of a Salon article that popped [continue reading…]

 January 20, 2017  Posted by at 12:50 am Issue #202, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Jan 132017
 
And Now for a Little, Very Little, Peace and Quiet

by Kim Pederson……. It’ everywhere, it’s everywhere! No, I’m not talking about Chicken Man. That’s “he’s everywhere, he’s everywhere!” I’m talking about noise pollution, one of the banes of living in developed societies that can drive you not just literally but actually crazy. You likely know what I’m talking about and if not, here’s the definition: noise pollution is “disturbing or excessive noise that may harm the activity or balance of human or animal life.” So what does noise pollution–generated outdoors mostly by machines, transportation [continue reading…]

 January 13, 2017  Posted by at 12:46 am Issue #201, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Jan 062017
 
There's No Place Like...a Hermetically Sealed Climate-Controlled Lucite Cube

by Kim Pederson……. If you are/were 77 years old, you might be feeling a little wear and tear, too. But unluckily you are not an object of affection that spurs thousands of people to send in hundreds of thousands of dollars so that your “materials” can be studied and repaired and then preserved “in a special temperature-controlled display case.” That honor goes to Wizard of Oz Dorothy’s ruby slippers at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. Created in 1939, the slippers have become, sadly, a [continue reading…]

 January 6, 2017  Posted by at 12:46 am Issue #200, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Dec 302016
 
The Treachery of Perceptions

by Kim Pederson……. Merriam-Webster announced recently that its “Word of the Year” for 2016 is “surreal.” MW chose this word because…well, let them explain: Surreal is Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year because it was looked up significantly more frequently by users in 2016 than it was in previous years, and because there were multiple occasions on which this word was the one clearly driving people to their dictionary. The MW editors also note that there were three major look-up spikes for surreal in 2016: one [continue reading…]

 December 30, 2016  Posted by at 12:32 am Issue #199, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Dec 232016
 
Scrooged??

by Kim Pederson……. I received my auto insurance policy billing schedule the other day and was surprised to see my premium going from $86 per month to $120. The policy premium climbed from $1150 for the year to $1446, which is about a 26% boost. When I expressed my surprise via email at the price change for the same insurance coverage next year as this year and asked why I hadn’t been notified about the hike and the reason for it, I received these responses: [continue reading…]

 December 23, 2016  Posted by at 12:44 am Issue #198, Kim Pederson No Responses »
Dec 162016
 
Putting an End to Folly

by Kim Pederson……. Back in the fifteenth century, some believed that madness, depression, and stupidity were caused by something called “the stone of folly” or “stone of madness.” Said rock was purportedly inside the skulls of the afflicted personages, so, logically, the cure would be to open up the cranium and take the stone out (click this link for an “interesting” demonstration). Thankfully, as Jessica Parker tells us in her article “The Stone of Madness,” such operations were likely never done, except perhaps on stage [continue reading…]

 December 16, 2016  Posted by at 12:38 am Issue #197, Kim Pederson No Responses »