2013.09 minutiae

  • Jess reports that a web site asked her to set up no fewer than four security questions.  "What town or city did your parents meet in?" was one of the options.  "Never come across that one before," Jess said. "I feel like I'm being quizzed to prepare for some kind of temporal paradox where I need to know this in order to ensure my birth."

  • This semester I'm auditing a hybrid astronomy/biology class.  I think my favorite moment so far has been when a slide described plants as "behaviorally not complex."

  • Zoe the Squirrel is also taking an astronomy class (and unlike me is actually enrolled in hers).  Zoe's professor is prone to going off on tangents about astronomers' biographies (they spent most of a class period on whether Tycho Brahe was murdered) and about sci-fi movies.  Recently we were comparing notes and had the following exchange:

    A: In my class today we did some basic nuclear astrophysics

    A: I don't know whether you will get to that in yours — I seem to recall the class description said you were doing mostly planets and not so much about stars

    Z: We haven't really talked about planets much yet, though

    Z: The planet we have discussed the most was the planet of the apes

  • Wikipedia reports: "Pleistocene America boasted a wide variety of dangerous carnivores (most of which are extinct today), such as the short-faced bear, saber-toothed cat, Homotherium, the American lion, dire wolf, American cheetah and (possibly) the terror bird."


  • I read that Dennis Rodman had been mentioned on KCNA, the North Korean news agency, so I clicked over there for a look.  The Rodman story was indeed the top story for September 6th, but the main page hadn't updated, and still showed the list of stories for September 5th.  To wit:

    • Kim Jong Un Receives Floral Basket from Lao President
    • Kim Jong Un Receives Floral Baskets from Foreign Figures and Organizations
    • Floral Baskets and Congratulatory Letters to Kim Jong Un
    • Floral Tribute Paid to Statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il
    • Kim Jong Un's Work Supported by Political Party of Kyrgyzstan

    I guess they can't all be about floral baskets.

  • As for the Rodman story, this looks to me like what the newspaper biz, back when there was a newspaper biz, called the "key graf":  "Warmly welcoming Dennis Rodman visiting the DPRK again as a friend in a good season, Kim Jong Un told him that he might visit the DPRK any time and spend pleasant days, having a rest."

  • It occurred to me that having the Flintstones advertising Cocoa Pebbles in 2013 is like having Ernie Kovacs on every box of Froot Loops.

  • When I re-read Brave New World earlier this year, it wasn't until near the end of the book that I realized that all the references to people always having the television on were meant to be dystopian sci-fi: television sets were still laboratory curiosities when the book was written.  Similarly, when I re-read the first few appearances of Hawkeye and the Black Widow for my Avengers article, it took me a minute to realize that, when Iron Man pulls out a rectangular handheld device and talks to a video image of Thor on it, I should probably have been more impressed.  Skyping on your smartphone wasn't a standard thing in 1964.

  • I often lose things.  What rustles my jimmies about this is that when I find them again, I tend to suddenly be struck by vivid memories of deliberately putting the things in those places and thinking, "Here's the perfect spot for this!"

  • I remember that back in the '90s people used to say, "Alternative music? Alternative to what? Everything is called 'alternative' now!"  But I've noticed that when I take Sporcle quizzes on '80s music I recognize almost everything, but half the clips on the '90s music quizzes are totally unfamiliar to me.  So I guess "alternative" meant "alternative to this stuff."

    (I don't even bother with the 21st-century music quizzes — I'm lucky to score one percent.)

  • The girl next door was challenging all comers to medieval combat again, though this time she was wearing modern clothes instead of her armor and cape.  Memo to the second little boy who tried to take her on: dude, don't bring an Otter Pop to a swordfight.

  • Dear ice cream truck:  September 27 is too early to play "Silent Night."

  • Seriously, TERROR BIRD

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