Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New smells

I like getting new stuff. It's fun. It's exciting.
There's something very nice about going to a store, browsing for the item you want and then taking it home. Once you get home there's all that excitement again.
"Oh boy! Now I get to check out my brand new multimeter! What should I test it on"?
"Hey look what I picked up today! A brand new ice cream scoop! Lets go buy some ice cream so we can check it out"!
Well, one of the things that I enjoy getting the most is books.
I love books. I like owning a lot of books. I like reading books. I like looking at my bookshelves and enjoying the sight of all of those books, my books sitting there. I've read them all, and they are all there if I want to read them again.
I'm not too picky about the kinds of books that I buy (not genre, kind. Genre is a different matter, perhaps for another post) new or used, I like buying books. A book is very intriguing. It's a closed object. You're not really sure what's inside, and you can't wait to sit down and start reading it. It's such a small and compact object, but it holds so much promise! Adventure, romance, fantasy, fiction, history, horror, suspense... whatever it is, the book will deliver. A book is a comfortably complete object.
But I especially like buying new books. There's a nice feeling inside when you walk out of the store with a brand new book. It still has that fresh feeling, the spine isn't creased and there are no smudges on the pages.
But what I especially like about new books is the smell.
That smell you get in bookstores is nice. There are two kinds, there's the new-bookstore smell which is slightly sterile, but promising. And then there's the second-hand-bookstore smell. That smells of must, old pages and memories. The smell of good times had and good times to be had.
Both of those are nice smells, but they can't compete with the smell of a brand new book.
I like to open it up a little and just smell the inside of the binding. The smell of glue and paper that hasn't been around. The smell of an adventure just waiting to happen from the comfort of your armchair. The smell of a new beginning and promises of a great ending.
They should make car fresheners that smell like new books. You know those trees or other shapes that hang from the rear view mirror? They should make one that smells like a new book.
None of this pine tree or strawberry crap. If I wanted to smell nature I wouldn't be driving in my car with the AC on, I'd be outside enjoying nature. Cars shouldn't smell of nature but of something pleasant but neutral. Something with a promise of fun.
Like the smell of a new book.
But I can't see them making one like that any time soon. Until then I'll have to make do. If you see somebody driving around with a book hanging from the rear view mirror, wave, it's probably me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Not Stupid Day

Okay everybody, mark your calendars. January 5th is the official Not Stupid Day.

An example of The Stupid and Black Hat Guy (Not Stupid Day's (un)official mascot) fixing The Stupid.

As one of the founding fathers of Not Stupid Day (NSD) I feel it is my duty to explain a little bit about it.
First, an apology. NSD has many founding fathers and mothers, and if I start to name a few, I will forget some others. Therefore, I will not mention anybody. The founding fathers and mothers know who they are, and that is enough. Also, there may be some ambiguity about what you have to do to qualify as a founding parent.
Anyway, it all started as a little innocent remark on a forum. I will not quote the remark directly (to preserve anonymity) but it was a complaint about a certain national service not working properly and the poster blaming his/herself (anonymity again) for not doing this on not stupid day.
I then, innocently enough, asked if there was a Not Stupid Day, and when that is.
This sparked a little discussion, and we all decided that it would be nice to celebrate Not Stupid Day on a certain day, and we settled on January 5th. (Because, why not?)
So, what is Not Stupid Day?
Well, there are more than 6 billion people on this planet, and at any given time fully half of them are exasperated with the other half. It's for doing just plain stupid things.
“C'mon lady! That parking space is twice as big as your car. Just park and stop holding up traffic”!
“Excuse me, is this the bus to the central bus station”? “Dude, you're at the central bus station”.
“My laptop doesn't work anymore”. “Have you tried charging the battery”?
And other sundry examples. I'm sure that if you stop and think about it for a few minutes you will come up with at least 4 different cases where somebody near you did something stupid, and at least one (be honest!) where you did something stupid.
So, NSD is when we celebrate the fact that we are, in fact, not stupid. It's just one day a year where we make every attempt not to do anything stupid. Just to make a small corner of the world (near where I am) a slightly better place (for a given value of “slightly”).
Let's make one thing perfectly clear: I am not dissing anybody. I am not saying that most people are stupid, in fact, most people are of average intelligence (think about it...). I'm saying that everybody does stupid things at some point. Granted some more than others, but we all do stupid things.
January 5th is just the day when we try extra hard not to.

Another thing, the opposite of stupid is not smart. I don't expect that of anybody. Albert Einstein was smart. Isaac Newton was smart. Carl Friedrich Gauss was smart. Most of us are not that smart.
The opposite of stupid is clever.
“Oh, if I make a slightly wider turn, I can fit in this parking space in one cut, without backing up traffic”.
“Wait a minute, this is the end of the bus line. I must be at the central bus station”!
“Huh, my laptop stopped working. Maybe the battery died and I need to plug in the charger”.
So, in conclusion, NSD is not celebrated by playing chess, solving Rubik's Cubes or doing calculations on a slide-rule (although you can if you want to, it's just not an integral part of NSD). Instead, NSD is celebrated by planning in advance, being aware of one's surroundings, and generally being clever.
So go out there! Spread the word! (The word is Not Stupid, I know it's two words, but you know what I mean...) Tell your family and friends about NSD. Sign up for the Facebook event! Blog about it! Write to your congressman (or other parliamentary representative that you may or may not have in your country). Try to get as many people as possible to celebrate NSD.
If enough of us celebrate NSD we might vanquish The Stupid forever!
Or not. But it will still be fun.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Life needs a soundtrack

I noticed something a little bit disturbing recently.
I just watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding (again) and something weird happened.
You know the scene towards end, the reception at the wedding? Where Tula's father gives them a wedding present? A house?
Well, in that scene I got a little misty-eyed.
(Aside: I'm a guy, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I have feelings, so there!)
But anyway, it was such a sweet scene. Her father goes through the whole movie disapproving of everything Tula does, and then in this one little act of kindness he tells her that all is forgiven and that he loves her, no matter who she marries.
Well, I witnessed similar scenes in real life, and nothing happened. I thought it was nice, I thought it was sweet, but I didn't start tearing up.
That's when I started thinking about it and I noticed something. Take a movie like Forest Gump. It's a great movie, and there are a few scenes there that are real tear-jerkers. It was like sad and sweet at the same time. But we see stuff like that in real life! Do we cry?
So, then I thought, How come this doesn't happen to me in real life? Why, in real life do I emote on a much more intellectual level?
And the answer is not what you would think. It isn't because I'm a cold hearted bastard or a robot with a metal lump for a heart because I'm not (despite what a past girlfriend may think), it's because the question is wrong!
I do emote in real life on an emotional level. The reason why I don't cry in scenes like that is because they are not scenes like that!

The whole thing is different.
In the movie it's not just the action, the current acting of the characters, it's not just the recent history that you know. It's the sound track.
The producers/editors/directors/wh
oever-thinks-they're-in-charge know when a sad or really sweet scene is coming, and they want to milk it for all it's worth. So, they play the right background music for the scene. Something soft. Not something you're likely to notice because it merges so well with the scene. The way the music starts out soft, and then as the emotions climax it builds a little, adding the right notes in the right places....
Anyway, it's the m
usic with the scene that gets me all misty-eyed.
So, I thought that if real life had a sound track, we'd all be much more sensitive to stuff like this.
I don't think it would make the world a better place, but it would certainly make it more interesting.
I mean, come on, who doesn't want Ride of the Valkyries to play when you're trying to catch the bus?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kid on the Bus

Today I was riding the bus, which is something I do periodically, seeing as I don't own a car. But unlike most other times when I ride the bus, when I just try to avoid the stupid people, this time I (and everybody else on the bus) had a very interesting, and actually funny encounter with a screaming 4 year old boy.
It went like this.
There was standing room only, and a young mother got on the bus with a little boy in a stroller, and a slightly larger boy who was maybe four, walking nicely and holding on to the stroller like his mother told him to.
Now, the mother immediately saw that there was nowhere to sit down, and was trying to explain this to her son. To his credit it should be said that this was in the evening, and the boy had clearly been on his feet for a long time. However, his response was truly disproportionate.
He promptly started crying and yelling that he wanted to "sit dooowwwwwwn!". His mother was trying to explain that there was nowhere to sit, and that they were getting off in three stops anyway. Her explanations were interspersed with furtive glances at us, the "normal" passengers, flashing the my-kid-is-making-a-scene-in-public-and-I-won't-be-strict-with-him-now-while-you-all-can-see-but-you-can-bet-he-will-get-it-when-we-get-home smile and punctuated by the kid's yells and screams.
At this point we were still on the mother's side. Just praying silently that she could shut the kid up, but not exactly annoyed yet. We were a jaded crowd, and it takes more than a single screaming kid to upset us. Besides, judging from the knowing smiles around me, I'd guess that most of the people there had been through a similar scene with kids/siblings of their own.
Anyway, the lady sitting in the aisle closest to the kid got up and offered her seat to the little boy.
He of course refused, at 120 decibels.
His mother picked him up and bodily plopped him in the seat. This provoked him to redouble his efforts (how could such small lungs produce such prolonged screams I do not know) and yelling "but I wanna sit therrrrrrreeeee!" pointing at a window seat.
His mother tried Reason again, pointing out that the nice lady had given up her seat so he could sit down.
Nothing doing. The kid wanted a window seat.
So, with a sigh the slightly elderly gentleman sitting next to the boy, and more importantly, next to the window, signaled the boy's mother that he is willing to switch seats, or even jump out the window, whatever it will do to shut the kid up.
And this is where we get to the funny part. The Good Mother, always trying to teach her young and gentle offspring a lesson said: "Look, this nice man will let you sit in his seat, near the window. But not because you are screaming, little boys who scream don't deserve to sit near the window. So, how do you ask nicely"?
And the boy answered, and I swear I am not making this up, "I don't KNOWWWWW"! and started bawling again.
At this point the whole bus cracked up. Everybody could hear the whole thing, even if most of them couldn't see what was happening. I have never seen an entire bus load of people just laughing spontaneously at something like that. It was just too much. It was a sort of anticlimax to the whole thing.
I got off the bus then, and missed the end of the story. Was the kid finally placated? Did he cry the whole way until he got off? Did the mother give in and whack him a good one? We'll never know. But as I was getting off I thought to myself 'what would be a good moral to this story'?
And the only thing I could come up with was:
Little children should come with a remote control, and that remote control should have a very large MUTE button.

Monday, September 14, 2009

An Interesting Paradox

It seems that there is a very strange paradox.
Bear with me, it's confusing.
Now, we all know that the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything is 42.
We even know the ultimate question is: what do you get when you multiply 6 by 9?
Now, every fourth-grader can tell you that that's wrong, but that is not the case. Due to an accident in our physiological development 6X9 does not equal 42.
However, as you may or may not know, 6X9 in base 13 does equal 42.
Now, we think in base 10, because we have 10 fingers. This would suggest that the creator of the universe has 13 fingers. Not a far stretch for the imagination, the number 13 has many implications in many cultures.
I will go off on a tangent here for a moment.
It seems that the actual question is nonsense. Since Prack The Truthful said that in any universe the question and the answer would cancel each other out.
So now the question makes even less sense. Not only is it the wrong math, but it's also not really the question.
That brings me to conclude that the point of the question is so that we will reach the conclusion that cosmic mathematics should be done in base 13.
Back to my original point, this brings us to the paradox.
If the creator of the universe has 13 fingers, then clearly there is no symmetry involved!
Now the physicists are all clonking their heads in frustration. For the rest of humanity I will try to explain.
Physicists set a great store by symmetry. In physics, particularly in particle physics, there is a lot of symmetry. Up and down, side to side, mirror symmetry, spin... and so on.
Additionally, physicists like to think that beauty and simplicity (and hence symmetry) are the ways of the universe. It's no law, and nothing that has been proved, but it's just a way of looking at it. It helps to create and/or discard theories.
For example, all of the attempts to unify quantum mechanics with relativity stem from this idea. It makes a sort of simple sense that the universe will have one set of rules, not 2.
Anyway, if the creator has 13 fingers, then the creator's hands are not symmetrical! Therefore symmetry would be a foreign concept to the creator, and any symmetry we might encounter in the universe will be purely accidental, not design!
So the ultimate answer leads us to the conclusion that all the physics we thought we knew is wrong, but the fact remains that it works!
How weird is that?

TLDR: Due to logic the universe may cease to exist, or at least not behave the way we think it should.

Hello Everybody!

This is my blog.
I don't think many people will read it, but that's OK. The point is for me to write. I like writing, and this is a harmless outlet.
I have all of these strange random thoughts, so I thought about writing them down, and maybe sharing them with people. The easiest way to do that is with a blog.
So, here it is, my blog.
Caveat: Please don't take anything here too seriously. Most (if not all) of what appears here will probably be a joke. If I am writing a serious post, it should be immediately recognizable. In any event, I'll try to make a note of the fact that it is serious.
And with that little preamble, read on intrepid explorer! The pages ahead of you are fraught with mysteries and strange things! Read and enjoy!