Saturday, November 10, 2007

1541 In the Days Before

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Daughter never exerienced the days before ATMs, when banks were open only from 10 'til 2, and if you didn't give up lunch to get to the bank, you didn't get your paycheck deposited, and you didn't get cash. Money took a lot of planning.

Remember when there were no cell phones, and you had to use a pay phone when you were out, and other people couldn't be contacted if they were away from their home or desk? Keeping in touch took a lot of planning and cooperation.

Remember when you had to use your telephone to get to the internet? And printers used continuous paper with sprocket holes on the sides? And there were no bar codes and clerks had to actually type the price of an item into the cash register?

I've been trying to imbed this video,, and three out of three times now, putting it into a post has taken Internet Explorer down. Strange. Other people have imbedded it in Blogger posts, so it's something unique to me.

Anyway, it's funny. Go watch.

Friday, November 09, 2007

1540 How to Take a Test

Friday, November 9, 2007

It's about 4:40 am and I'm wide awake, because without thinking about it I drank a frappuccino at 11:30 pm, and because my nose was running so badly in bed. I'm beginning to think I may be allergic to something in my bedroom. Anyway, I'm going to be awake until the antihistamine I just took kicks in.

While staring at the ceiling, I was thinking about taking tests. I can take a multiple choice test on almost any topic and pass it. Not because I know the topic, but because I know tests. When people ask me "What's Mensa", I don't say it's a high IQ society - I say it's a social club for people who do well on multiple choice tests. And if you get to know a few Mensans, you'll find that is a more accurate description. Some of us are otherwise incredibly stupid.

One of the Mensa Yahoo groups has been passing around a 10-question "business in history" test (found at Most of those taking it got 7 or 8 of the ten answers correct. The question that the most people got wrong was:

3. Because of its importance to the 19th century economy, what is the state animal of Connecticut?
a) Sperm Whale
b) Husky
c) Beaver
d) Clydesdale Horse

(You might want to take the test yourself before reading further.)

You don't have to know the answer to a question if you can figure it out. The key words here are "the 19th century economy" and "Connecticut". The husky might have been important in Alaska, maybe, but not to "the 19th century economy" in general. The horse would have gotten merely a shrug, and Clydesdale is much too specific anyway. That leaves us with the beaver and the whale. The beaver may have been pretty important in the early days of the colonies, but probably less so in the 19th century. To cap it off, what do we know about Connecticut? All those whaling villages. Ahah! That fits with the 19th century, too.

I can't imagine how anyone could miss this one, but most people did.

That reminded me of the mid-'70s, when IQ tests were heavily attacked as being culturally biased. Some woman, a teacher representing students from the inner city, was interviewed on a local news program attacking the school system's use of IQ tests to group students. She chose an example from a test to illustrate her claim that the tests were biased toward culturally-advantaged suburban kids. The example was very similar to this:

The opera The Axe of the Fireflies by Joseph Hill cannot be performed in a small theater because
a) it's too loud.
b) it's too popular.
c) it requires an enormous cast.
d) it's too long.

Her argument was that inner city kids are not exposed to opera, their parents don't take them to operas, and therefore they are unlikely to have any knowledge of this opera, they have no way of knowing if it's too loud or if it's popular or whatever, and therefore the question is culturally biased. And the other panelists and the reporter all pursed their lips and nodded in agreement.

I totally freaked. I was yelling at the TV. You don't have to know anything about opera to answer that question! In fact, there is no such opera! All it takes is the power to reason, which is exactly what the test is measuring. Simple reasoning (and the ability to pick out the important parts of the statement) will give you the correct answer.

(By the way , that's one of the things the dreaded fifth-grade math word problems teach - the ability to separate the important information from the extraneous. A very useful skill. You end up in your later years yelling "that's a load of bull poopy" at people on the telephone.)

1539 Warning - Adult Topic

Friday, November 9, 2007

I had mentioned that one of the presentations I had gone to at the Chicago Mensa gathering was "Foreskin Restoration for Fun and Profit".

The speaker was Ron Low, inventor of the TLC Tugger (warning - website has explicit photos). From the program notes: "Ron Low has been curious about what circumcised men might be missing ever since the issue was debated in the letters section of the Mensa Bulletin in the '80s. Flash forward 20 years; he has not only restored his own foreskin, he has helped over 8000 men undertake non-surgical restoration. In a lively and explicit audio-video format, Ron will tell you why men do it, [and] how it is accomplished...."

How could I not go? When my daughter was born, in Missouri in 1975 (back when we didn't know the sex of a baby until it was born), I caused a bit of a crisis in the hospital when I arrived in labor and told the doctors that if the baby was a boy, they were NOT to circumcise him. They said that of course he would be circumcised, ALL baby boys were circumcised, the state said they had to be* and that was that. I told them that if they circumcised MY baby boy against my explicit wishes, I'd sue their asses for mutilation and disfigurement. Luckily, Daughter was a girl, and the hospital lawyers relaxed.

I've always had an opinion on the topic.

The first half of the presentation was all about the physiology of the penis, especially as pertains to the nerves, the different types of nerves, where they are, what they respond to, and so on. Frankly, this was the part most interesting to me. Um, most useful. Gonna take that info into the lab and check it out.** Oh, yeah.

Circumcision actually removes or damages the most sensitive of the nerves, the J-shaped sensors at the joint between the foreskin and the glans. (They respond to being bent and straightened as the foreskin moves in normal sexual activity.) Then over time, the remaining nerves are desensitized by the now-exposed glans drying out and rubbing against clothing.

You'll never get the lost nerves back, but simply providing a natural covering for the glans can allow it to regain some sensitivity, and that's a reason to attempt to restore a semblance of the foreskin.

He showed a lot of photos of the results of various methods of restoration. Surgical restoration seems to be the ugliest. They kind of drag skin up from the scrotum, and you end up with, uh, no other way to say it, a hairy penis.

The non-surgical way is to stretch the skin over time.

He showed several methods for stretching, most involving tape and weights. His invention, the TLC Tugger, doesn't use tape or weights, and is supposedly easier to put on and remove. If you go to the website (link above), you can see how it works. There's a cap over the glans, then you pull some skin down and put another cap over it, and then hook all that to an elastic arrangement attached to your leg. Eventually the skin stretches.

It looks weird, but he says it's quite comfortable. I caused a bit of a sensation in the Q&A period when I asked, "What happens if you're wearing this thing, and you get an erection. Does the cap tiddly-wink across the room?"

When the laughter quieted down, he said that's another advantage of his cap over the systems that involve suspending weights. In those, if the cap pops off, it falls out of your pant leg, and it's a little difficult to ignore or explain. Because his is attached to the leg, it just falls and dangles inside the pant leg. And, his has an "emergency cord" you can reach from inside your pocket that will release tension when necessary.

So, that's what that was all about. Just your normal Mensa presentation.


Footnotes -

*The Missouri legislature, who was not, as far as I know, a medical body, also mandated that if an abdomen was opened for any reason whatsoever, the appendix was to be removed. This is the same crew who passed a law in response to Roe V. Wade that ok, abortions were allowed, but all abortions would be performed by hysterotomy (i.e. Cesarean section), not vaginally. That law didn't last long - the doctors rioted.

**The theories check out. The man knows whereof he speaks. He taught this old dog some new tricks. Oh yeah....

Thursday, November 08, 2007

1538 More Credit Confusion

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I called the check verification place today, regarding the check that was refused yesterday, and got a load of blather about how their computer checks patterns, time, place, amount, etc., and that the transaction seemed to fit a pattern of fraud, blah blah, so the computer flagged it as likely fraudulent. She couldn’t tell me exactly what the computer concluded or why. She was able to tell me what checks I had written in the recent past that they had approved at several local stores.

Um, this check was written to a store where I had written checks before, the store is less than 10 miles from my home, the amount was rational - where's the "fraud indicators"? I used the phrase “that’s a load of bull poopy” several times in the conversation.

I wonder if it has anything to do with the fraudulent Master Card charges that I got the call about last Saturday. Is it possible there's a red flag on ALL my cards and checking accounts now, like that there's a possibility of identity theft?

I went to dinner this evening with Angela, Nate, John, Angie, and George, at a diner on route 300 in Newburgh (New Windsor). The conversation was good, the food was more expensive than it rated.

John is in his 60s, I guess, and has been attending the dinners for maybe four months now. I asked him when he might bring his wife along, and he was surprised that his wife would be welcome, seeing as she's not a member. When I assured him that not only would she be welcome, no one would even comment on it, he seemed very grateful. Later I realized I could have pointed out that Nate isn't a member, but my not pointing it out proves the point, I guess.

As we were leaving the restaurant, George, who is new and was at the last two dinners, commented that he wants me to sit next to him next time. Ick! I don't want to. He's older than I, and single, and rather boring. There be dragons.

Speaking of dragons, my friend in NJ is chest-deep in office dragons right now. We've talked by phone and email, but haven't been able to get together since last week. The next two weeks are business trips for him and family related trips for both of us, so barring a miracle, like a few extra days inserted into the calendar, I won't see him for a while.

Sadness. I'm developing a craving for him.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

1537 Check What?!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I'm so glad the local elections are over. I was getting five to eight phone calls a day for the past three weeks, with either taped candidate messages or people demanding that I tell them who I intend to vote for. When I talked to friends, they reported only two or three calls a day. About all I can figure is that I'm registered Independent, so both parties considered me a wild card.

I went to the bank to deposit some checks today, then went shopping for sewing supplies, cat food, and one of those little USB "thumb drive" thingies. Figured I'd try one, see if it might work to hold photographs and stuff.

I bought the USB thingy in Staples, and wrote a check, for less than $80. The checkout child gave her cash register a funny look, and called a manager. The manager looked at the register, and told the child to "make the call". She called someone, gave them all the info off my check, and then turned to me and said "Your check has been refused."


She couldn't tell me exactly why, but then said, in front of all the other people lined up behind me, "It's usually because of too many bounced checks." I grabbed the manager who was about to leave, and said "Explain this, please. I've never bounced a check in my entire adult life, and besides, if I do, my bank will automatically go into my savings, and then into a signature line of credit, so it's next to impossible for a check to bounce anyway! This is ridiculous!"

He said they use a credit service to vet checks, and that the service will not tell them the reason, because of privacy issues. But I can call them and find out. He gave me a card with the phone number, and on the back of the card it gives three possible reasons:
1.) Bad history,
2.) They don't have enough information on this person to make a decision,
3.) The id offered was not verifiable.

The child never asked me for id. Whatcha wanna bet the check was refused because she didn't put in the driver's license number. Every time I wrote a check in Staples in the past, they asked for the license.

I'll call the credit service tomorrow and find out.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

1536 I Don't Love You Anymore

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

[Apologies for using "they", plural, instead of "he or she", singular. Just trading one awkward construction for another slightly less awkward.]

I didn't change the channel after the noon news, so a soap opera was on. I don't watch soap operas, so I don't know which one this is, but it's the one with Greely, or Greenlee, or whatever her name is, and I overheard a woman on the show say to a man, "I don't love you anymore."

I've never understood that statement. If it's the same person, and you "don't love anymore", then it couldn't have been love in the first place.

I figure that if you get to see deeply enough into another person to love them (a romantic interest, a family member, a friend), then you love them forever. Love isn't a momentary or conditional thing. As long as what you saw and loved exists, then how can you not love that part? They may do something that distresses or hurts you, but if you know the person well enough to love them, the basic them, then you can understand and forgive, and keep on loving.

Of course, there's the case where you never really knew the person at all, and what you loved was a construct, a facade, and when you find the real person they're entirely different.

I suspect that sometimes people confuse "want" and "love". They want someone, want them in their life, and think that therefore they love them, so then when they don't want anymore, they think they don't love anymore.

Or maybe they do love someone, but when they figure out that they really aren't good for each other, or that they can't possibly live together or be too involved in each other's lives (and that happens a LOT), when they don't "want" them anymore, then they can't love them, either.

Well, you can. You should. You need to keep the good, and continue to love it, if perhaps from a distance.

I know someone who is having a problem with that now. Her father has been ill a lot lately, and it has affected his mind and personality, and not in a good way. He'd always been difficult to know, difficult to deal with, and now he's become more self-centered, annoying, and frustrating than ever. She is afraid she's losing charitable feeling toward him. She gets angry with him, and would like to just walk away, and then she gets angrier because he's causing her to feel this way.

I was very lucky with Jay. Even with half his brain gone, delusions and hallucinations, unreasonable demands and frustrating stubbornness, the core of him remained him, all the himness that I loved, and it was easy to continue to love him.

I don't know what to tell my friend.

Monday, November 05, 2007

1535 Art Lesson

Monday, November 5, 2007

Warning, some people might think the following video is naughty, so I guess I should warn you. Adults only. And keep your mind out of the gutter! But it really is pretty good.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

1534 Small Town Life

Sunday, November 4, 2007

I often refer to "the village". A little lesson in NY government: The state is divided into counties, and the county government maintains county roads, libraries, community colleges, and so on. Counties are divided into townships. A township (or just "town", like the Town of Poughkeepsie) maintains town roads, courts, garbage collection, fire departments, a smattering of other things. Towns have no connection to residential or business concentrations. Municipalities are hamlets, villages, or cities, depending on population, and maintain their own streets and services. Hamlets are often too small to bother with a government, and contract with the town for services. So in NY, it is not correct to use "town" to refer to a small city. It's either a city or a village. Town" can include farmland and woods.

I live in a town, outside "the village". There's only one village, and perhaps three hamlets in my township.

And this is how comfortable, yet strange, villages and towns can be: It's normal to leave your house to go to the deli or post office or bank, and leave the house unlocked. A few weeks ago, over the period of two or three weeks, there were 15 burglaries in the village and outside in the town. The town sheriff says they've caught the culprit, and the burglaries have stopped.

Ok, taken care of, right?

Nope. Here's where small town thinking kicks in. Local elections are coming up in a few days, and there's a campaign on to vote out the incumbent town board, regardless of party affiliation (more radical elements want to impeach them all), because they didn't send out an automated phone call to everyone in the town, telling them to lock their doors when they left their houses.

The thinking is that it's an issue of incompetence and poor judgement in the face of a threat. "How will they handle a real emergency?"

Uh, this wasn't a real emergency.