Archive for September, 2007

I Never Could Get the Hang of Thursdays

Friday, September 28th, 2007

So in the last post I explained about how I picked Thursday to be the day I used when not answering people’s query about what is the current time. I explained then that I tried to be logical in my choice of being nonsensical in my answer. As a follow up question God asked me why I chose Thursday out of all the days of the week.

So this is what I explained:

The goal was to answer the question about what time it was with something that would at the same time seem like it was answering the question but not actually be answering it at all. This would hopefully have the effect of causing a moment of cognitive dissonance leaving the person somewhere between amused and flummoxed. That’s why I was using a day in the first place, it was in the right family to seem like it might be that I just heard the question wrong, since it is a unit of time, but it’s enough wrong from what the answer should have been that the questioner would need a moment to try and figure out if they had asked the question wrong and, whether or not they had asked it wrong, how they could rephrase it so as to let me know that the answer I had given was not only not right but not even to the right question.

Now, to achieve all that, I felt the day chosen should have as few other associations as possible. That left out Saturday and Sunday, because they’re famously the weekend for which so many working class heroes live. That left out Monday, because it’s the start of the work week, and Friday, because it’s the end of it. Wednesday was no good because it’s been made into a big deal by being “hump day,” the midpoint of the week. So now I’m left with either Tuesday or Thursday. Since Tuesday is the day that we return to work after the much-loved three day weekends (because Monday is a holiday so much more often than Friday), that tipped the scale in favor of Thursday.

So what time is it? It’s Thursday.

God says she finds it kind of amazing to watch me think.

Thursday Time

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

It often seems to me that I don’t think like other people. I mentioned this to God and she agreed. She went on to say that that’s a big part of why she chose me to to come and talk with. I’m mostly very logical in my thought processes but, being human, I’m certainly prone to my flights of fancy. Sometimes these two things combine in interesting ways.

Well, they’re interesting to me anyway.

An example is what I’ll call “Thursday Time.” Like most people, I suppose, I get asked what time it is. Now except for an experimental few years when I was in my late teens and early adulthood, I’ve never worn a wristwatch, so I don’t usually have the answer to that question as readily available as most people. The obvious thing to do then is to just say, “I don’t know.” This can be followed or replaced by “Let me check,” as I dig out my pocket watch. That would be the simple, straightforward, and, as I said, obvious thing to do.

I don’t really like obvious. It has its uses but by default I prefer to be at least a little bit off-center.

So I started to answer the question by telling people the day of the week and then, if I felt like it, somewhat grudgingly, getting out my watch to give them the information they were actually asking for. Now the downside to this was that a lot of people just assumed that I had misheard the question and would try to correct that, pretty much wasting my time and theirs. So I started telling them the day of the week but not the day of the week that it actually was. This had the affect of throwing them for just enough of a loop that I had time to get out my watch and give them a legitimate answer before they could figure out how they were going to fix the question.

I’d like to think this brightened their day a little bit, made it a little less boring, but if I’m honest I’ll admit that probably more of them found it annoying than amusing.

Now the downside to giving a wrong day, for me anyway, was that I had to essentially generate a random day of the week in my head. Humans aren’t really well designed for random number generation. Our two main faults in this area are that we tend to have favorite numbers and that we tend to think that randomness should have a fairly even distribution. Real randomness has short-term clumps that look non-random to us and we tend to avoid using that data when we “hand” generate random data because we’re afraid that we’re biasing the generation, in some way, to our favorites, or at least to something familiar, or even to something that we’ve carefully designed to not be familiar.

So I don’t like thinking up random data, because it’s too much work to try and be actually random, and I don’t like giving in to being actually non-random.

So I picked a day and went with it. When people would ask me what time it was, I’d usually just answer “Thursday” and then I might or might not follow that up by either getting them the actual time or by telling them that I didn’t know.

So to me this was all fairly logical, but not necessarily in the same way that anyone else would think of as logical.

And that’s why God talks to me?

Architectural Flourish

Monday, September 24th, 2007

I’ve already mentioned that I like to eat at Taco Bell. I find the food to be sort of like what Mexican themed candy would be if there were no sugar in candy. In other words I eat it for all the wrong reasons.

And God hasn’t tried to talk me out of it. He just says that we’re all allowed some little vices as long as they don’t hurt anyone else.

One of the things I find interesting is their ubiquity. I mean I know that there’s five times as many McDonald’s in the world, but near where I work Taco Bells seem to have them outnumbered. It’s been quite a while since I last saw one of the old faux-adobe styled locations, though I know of a couple of them that are still around as buildings, just not as Taco Bells anymore.

I was wondering about the architectural transition and God gave me some insight. He told me that when they were first starting out there were two things that were involved in the building choice. The first was that it was a lot more common in those days for restaurant’s to have a distinctive architecture. IHOPs had their signature A-frame, McDonald’s were typically built with their own distinctive look featuring their golden arches, and there were others. So it wasn’t that hard to sell the idea of buildings as corporate logos. The second thing was that as a new company, in desperate need of grabbing some mindshare, they were willing to take the double hit of having to pay to construct new buildings for every location they opened and of not maximizing the use of the land on which they built.

Nowadays, they’ve got the mindshare, so the main thing they’re worrying about maximizing is profits. If the world gets made a little more bland because of that, well, that’s America.

Less Than Double

Friday, September 21st, 2007

So God and I were discussing the evolution of language and we got onto the subject of the names of letters. My one big complaint about the names of letters is the “double you” character. The thing that bothers me is that all the other letters have single syllable names and double-you is three, it just doesn’t seem right.

Of course, this didn’t bother me all that much until the advent of the World Wide Web, when I was suddenly confronted by having to frequently deal with an acronym that was much longer to pronounce then the phrase that it stood for. I side with the all-too-small contingent that supports shortening it’s name to just “dub.”

So then God asked me if that was the only thing that bothered me about it. It was the only thing I could think of. Then she reminded me of all the times that I’d complained that it should be called “double vee” rather than “double you,” a practice that the French maintain. I admitted that was an issue, but felt that it was now moot, since shortening it to just dub fixed that problem as well.

Then God pointed out to me that in printing the character glyph looks like two vees but in lower-case cursive it looks more like two yous, so maybe the naming showed an English bias towards cursive.

But, I asked, isn’t one of the commandments, “Thou shalt not cursive?”

Right about then, I found I was alone again.

Premature Interpretation

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

So God was riding along with me today when we pulled up behind a yellow Corvette with the license plate “fstrrr.”

“Faster?” I asked. He gave a noncommittal shrug, having long ago told me that I wasn’t likely to be given direct answers when asking about what’s in other people’s heads.

So I went on. I suggested that maybe the Corvette was a deliberate attempt to mislead us. Maybe it was like in the Prince song “Little Red Corvette” where fast was a double entendre, meaning sexually fast as well as speedy. Maybe instead of an “A” the vowel the driver really meant was an “I” (and for those of you that don’t know what that means, tough, I’m not going to explain it here).

God just told me I have a dirty mind.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Not So Fast

Monday, September 17th, 2007

So after God and I got to talking about lies the other day, I took some time to look up an old quotation. Vladimir Lenin said, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” That one line, more than anything else I’ve read, seems to sum up the policy of the Bush/Cheney administration.

God reminded me that I said I wasn’t going to talk about presidential politics until 2008, but this time I got to tell her she was wrong. I looked it up and it was actually God that suggested that I avoid talking about the presidential campaigns until then, and while I admitted it was a good idea, I wasn’t sure how long I could keep to it.

So ignoring the fact that I’m talking here about the current president and not a campaign, I have to wonder if maybe God is trying to use Lenin’s technique on me?

The Big Lie

Friday, September 14th, 2007

So God and I got onto the subject of lies today. I had noticed a bottle of baby shampoo that proudly proclaimed “no more tears,” and was somewhat appalled that they could get away with such a demonstrably false claim.

God’s response was to get all clinical on me. She explained that the grey area between a lie and mere hyperbole was large enough to cover a lot of sins. The difference between fraud and mere exaggeration is often subtle and hard to fight.

“And don’t forget ignorance,” I chimed in. I mean look at all the stupid things that George W. Bush has said, does it really count as a lie if you don’t know you’re wrong?

Then she told me that ignorance was a special case, but that it didn’t apply the way I thought when it came to Bush. She said that in most cases Bush knew that he was lying but he was counting on the ignorance of the American public to let him get away with it.

And as soon as I realized the truth in that, the conversation went from being fun and interesting to just sad and depressing.


Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

I was bemoaning to God today the lack of optimism I see in the people I deal with, or whose writing I read, on a day to day basis. It was just starting to seem to me like all the positive thoughts were being crushed out, leaving just the husk of humanity behind.

So then God asked me if I knew the word “energize.” Sure, I told him. Then he asked me how many other people knew it. I told him pretty much everyone; I told him I thought that had been true even before some marketing flunky had decided to use the word to label a new brand of alkaline batteries.

Then he asked me if I knew a word that meant the opposite. “Enervate,” I told him and then he asked how many people I thought knew that word. Damned few, I suspected.

So didn’t that give me a feeling that optimism was more pervasive than pessimism?

I gave in.

Then later, after God left, I thought of the word “exhaust.”

Sex Ed

Monday, September 10th, 2007

So God pointed out to me that a report was recently issued about a study of teenagers and sex. I only read an article that talked about the report and not the report itself, so I can’t say much about the actual study. The soundbite that the article focused on is that, apparently, more teenagers of average intelligence have had sex than either smarter or dumber teens.

God wanted to know what I thought about it. My first thought was that it seemed at odds with the old Kornbluth story, “The Marching Morons,” but then, given that that story is fiction, I suppose it doesn’t matter much if it’s at odds with reality. And, of course, it was published almost sixty years ago, so it’s also possible teens may have changed their habits in the ensuing decades. Before I dismiss the story completely, let me give you a quick synopsis of the premise. I’ve been told that the premise of most Science Fiction stories can be boiled down to a form of one or more of three classic questions, “If only…,” “What if…,” and the one the Kornbluth story uses, “If this goes on…” The “if,” in this case, being “stupid people outbreed smart people.” It’s a question near and dear to many a welfare reformer, but that’s an issue for another day. So anyway, the idea presented in the story is that if stupid people keep outbreeding smart people, the average intelligence of humanity will drop, possibly to a point dangerously low.

Now the nitpickers out there will note that having sex is not the same thing as breeding and also that having had sex is not the same thing as having sex. To those people I say, yeah, you’re right, so what?

Anyway, before this post ends up going on too much longer than it already has, let me get back to teenage sex and what God wanted to know about it. (Boy, if that last sentence doesn’t get her to stop coming to see me, she really might have infinite patience.)

Again, anyway, I never really found a good way to express this, but I think God got what I was trying to get across: Today’s teenagers are the evolutionary result of trillions of genetic “experiments.” In a sense they’re the averaged result of all those successful sexual recombinations, so, on average, they’re predisposed to have sex; so maybe just being average makes them even more predisposed to having sex. It would be like the bell curve for intelligence is directly mapped to the bell curve for sexual proclivity.

And come to think of it, if a bell curve is steep enough it starts to look pretty phallic, so maybe…

Would You Like Nachos with That

Friday, September 7th, 2007

I’ve got a number of bad habits.

One of them is eating lunch at Taco Bell. I know it’s not good for me. I even know that it doesn’t really count as Mexican food; I certainly don’t count it when I tell people that Mexican is quite probably my favorite cuisine. But I’ve got a thing for that vaguely cheese-like sauce that they put on their nachos and in their Crunchwraps and probably in a host of other dishes.

And another thing I like is the packets of hot sauce. The sauce inside of them is okay too, but it’s the packets that I really like. They’ve taken to printing amusing little statements on the sauce packages for the last few years. Things like, “At night the sporks pick on me,” or “I collect straws.”

I picked up one today and it said, “Make a wish.” So I decided to play along. I closed my eyes and wished. As I often do, in these little ceremonial wishes, I wished for a boyfriend, one who is both worth keeping and one whom I might actually have some chance of keeping.

The next packet said, “Will you marry me?”

I glanced out the window, and sure enough, there was God. She pointed at the hot sauce and then at me and winked, letting me know that she had arranged the juxtaposition of packets. Sometimes God’s sense of humor is pretty childish.

Federal Expression

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

I passed a FedEx Express truck on the freeway today and on the basis of that sort “double express” nomenclature God and I discussed the swinging of the pendulum of business.

A few years back FedEx made a big deal in their advertising about changing their name from Federal Express to just FedEx. Since that was what everyone was calling them anyway, they said, they had decided to surrender and make it official.

Well, it appears now that they’ve realized that losing “express” from their name might have been diluting it from their reputation and maybe even from their service, so to make sure a small part of the company brings it back, they’ve now got FedEx Express.

I wonder if somewhere they’ve got a division that offers services tailored to government clients? I wonder if they call that “Federal FedEx?”

Heavenly Day

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

Well, it’s Labor Day. A day of rest for the working class stiffs in the U.S. The effective end of summer, at least for the overly-fashion-conscious. Today I’ll be munching on a burger cooked over a bed of coals and complaining about how hot it is.

It’s the American way.

I asked God if they celebrate Labor Day in Heaven. He told me sure, every Labor Day everyone has to do a chore.

I’m not sure if he was kidding.