2012.02 minutiae

  • So here I was, about 50 minutes into an 80-minute class I've been auditing, when for no reason in particular I started to feel a little queasy. While I normally sit on the aisle, this time I'd arrived after all the aisle seats were taken, so I was stuck in the middle of a row and couldn't get out easily if I became really nauseated. Instead, I started to feel light-headed, and then I saw white flashes that pretty quickly swallowed up my field of vision. The professor's voice receded beneath a ringing sound, and I was alone with my thoughts.

    Those thoughts went something like this:

    "What the hell is this? Am I dying?"

    "If I'm dying, that will be very disappointing — I'm finally making progress on some big projects and thought I'd finish a couple of them this year. If I were going to die suddenly, a few months from now would have been better. Dammit."

    "Also, if I'm dying, I should probably do something about it, like yelling for help, despite the social embarrassment. On the other hand, if I'm not dying, that would be a needlessly humiliating thing to do. I would regret it forever! But if I do die for fear of embarrassment I won't regret it long at all."

    "Maybe I really should try to go, though. Oh, I can't — not only am I blind and mostly deaf, but I'm paralyzed."

    "Hmm, sudden onset of paralysis… maybe I'm having a stroke. Let me try to move my fingers. Okay, I can't see them moving, but they feel like they're moving."

    "If I'm not having a stroke, is it possible that I just dozed off and am dreaming these more profound symptoms? Okay, wake up! C'mon! Full awareness!"

    "I am now at the fullest awareness I can manage, and all I can see is an undulating whiteness. I can hear the professor saying things I know to be words, but I can't make sense of the words. I am definitely trapped in some kind of neurological event."

    "Can I write? No — not only can I not see the paper, but I can't make my hands move beyond wiggling my fingers a little."

    "I guess I just have to keep trying to fight my way back to fuller consciousness. If I let go and quietly lose consciousness I won't receive help for a long time — people will think I just fell asleep. It would be stupid if this were something that could be corrected if it were caught within an hour, but instead two classes went by and finally an irascible professor said, 'Wake that guy up!' and then the person sitting next to me discovered that I was actually a corpse."

    Very gradually I did regain awareness of my surroundings, though things were very washed-out at first. I had checked the time when I first started to feel queasy, and it had been 12:02. The next time I was able to function well enough to check the time, it was 12:19. Class ended at 12:30, and I stumbled out feeling dazed, headachey, and very clammy, with significant pain in my left sinus.

    If that feeling of steadily losing hold on the world is what dying is actually like, though, then maybe it won't be so bad! I wasn't scared and it didn't hurt. (That said, profound disappointment isn't a great note to go out on.)

  • I don't like dark chocolate, but Tradey Joe started carrying Valrhona milk chocolate (29% cacao), and with a one-ounce bar going for 99 cents, I figured it was worth a shot. Egad! This is some of the best plain chocolate I've ever had.

  • Dear Youth of Today: sorry, but I'm afraid you can't add emphasis to a word by typing the silent e at the end of it several times. I know, it's a shameeeee

  • I wish there were some way I could set my Facebook feed to automatically block any posts about dogs.

  • Jess muses: "Puzzling over the selection of buttons on this microwave oven — 'Soften,' 'Family Snacks,' 'MyPlate.gov'? Why not 'Splatter,' 'Lonely Bastard Meal For One,' 'My Tea Got Cold,' 'YouTube'? I don't know what the world is coming to."

  • It took me a long moment to parse this one:
    World Trade Center rebuilding balloons

  • I was pleased to discover that while my ability to understand spoken French is close to zero, I can speak it myself well enough to have been able to help an elderly francophone woman order at a taco truck. (She had the same look of alarm when the guy asked her questions that I get when cashiers in Montreal ask me things, so I translated his questions for her. Luckily her replies were limited to "yes" and "no" because I doubt I could have translated in the other direction.)

  • Mr. T's character on The A-Team was named B.A. Baracus, the B.A. said to stand for "Bad Attitude." Obviously, that doesn't work in other languages. According to Wikipedia, here is the translation of the character's name in…

    Spanish: Bad Attitude
    Russian: Bad Attitude
    Hungarian: Bad Boy
    Italian: Worst Element
    Chinese: Wacky Head

  • It seems to me that there's something a bit perverse about doing a roundup of celebrity reactions to Whitney Houston's death and asking Marlee Matlin to weigh in.

  • Revealing slip: Elizabeth and I headed out the door, bound for the Korean place for dinner, and she asked whether we were walking there. "No," I immediately replied — even though we were. I quickly corrected myself and off we walked. But I wondered, why had I reflexively answered no? The obvious answer was that I had misheard the question as "Are we driving there?", but that wasn't it — I'd heard and understood the question correctly. I think what actually happened was that in my head driving is tangled up with notions of luxury and self-indulgence; it means "saying yes," as in, "yes, I would like to see the dessert menu!" Whereas walking means asceticism, self-denial… saying no. So that's what I said.

  • Sequence of thoughts while having dinner with Elizabeth at La Note:
    • Hey, look, an accordion player.
    • Wow, that song is really good! I wonder what it is.
    • Wait a minute, it's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"! You can't play "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on an accordion!
    • Except… it does seem that "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" actually sounds better on an accordion.
    • Now I don't believe in anything.

  • There was a hullaballoo on Twitter this month when so many Justin Bieber fans asked, "Who is Paul McCartney?" that the question became a trending topic. Two observations:

    • In terms of pop culture chronology, a kid in 2012 wondering "Who is Paul McCartney?" is very much like a Beatlemaniac of 1964 wondering "Who is Al Jolson?"

    • That said, given that you're already on the Internet and can easily pop over to Google or Wikipedia for the answer, asking the question on Twitter is less a request for information than a proclamation of proud ignorance.

  • Things you don't see every day department: I saw a blind man running for a bus. He was sprinting along the sidewalk, waving at the bus with one arm and frantically swinging his cane back and forth in front of him as he ran. I can't imagine trusting a mere cane to keep me from smacking into a post or toppling over a bench at 15 mph.

  • Harvard anthropologist Daniel Lieberman: "Humans are terrible athletes in terms of power and speed, but we're phenomenal at slow and steady. We're the tortoises of the animal kingdom."
          …so what does that make tortoises?

  • David Wolman, time.com: The won was devalued by 100 percent, which meant 1,000 won suddenly had the purchasing power of 10 won. Bzzt! Sorry, the phrase we were looking for was "a factor of 100." Sigh.

  • Saw an actual Nissan Leaf. #berkeley

  • Some beautifully self-contradictory messaging out of the Republican camp lately. "Obama wants to send your kids to college! What a snob! Like all these liberal elitists, he devalues people who do honest work, like janitors and bus drivers! …By the way, have you seen the outrageous amount of money janitors and bus drivers make? Some of them aren't even in desperate poverty! This has to be stopped!"

  • A fun story about standard right-wing "make up your own facts as convenient" procedure gone awry: a Washington Times reporter, one Kerry Picket, attempts to lie about Jerry Brown's electoral history, claiming that Reagan cleaned up his budget mess after Brown was voted out of office. Three problems: (a) Jerry Brown was governor after Reagan, not before; (b) Brown has never lost a gubernatorial election; and (c) she tried making these lies to Jerry Brown, who was, y'know, there. Oy. Details here.

  • I was watching The Daily Show on Hulu and it asked me to choose an "ad experience." See, this is why people pirate things. I understand that Hulu has to pay its license fees somehow. I can put up with an ad or two, annoying as they are. But the phrase "ad experience"? That's over the line. You might as well just make one of the options a μtorrent link if you're gonna pull that shit.

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