Fractal flakes

To decorate for our winter party before the semester-end break, we made paper snowflakes in art class at school.

Being the geek that I am, I made a mobile from the fractal of the Koch snowflake, which starts from a single equilateral triangle, and keeps adding triangles onto the triangles. The mobile is made from the first three iterations, cut out as nested pieces, plus the background to the largest, which is trimmed as a circle.

(The mobile’s crossbar is the metal edge that came loose from a ruler; it’s being employed in this manner to prevent misuse by unruly students.)

mobile made of three successive fractal iterations of the Koch snowflake, and the background piece of the largest

mobile made of three successive fractal iterations of the Koch snowflake, and the background piece of the largest

More on the Koch snowflake: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koch_snowflake

I bequeath the world a neologism, because there is need:

Te·di·a [tee-dee-uh]
noun
1. a plural of tedium.
2. the quality or state of multiple media being wearisome; irksome; tedious.
3. the quality or state of overwhelming tedium resulting from multiple, unrelated sources.

Overcome by the tedia of so-called “news” coverage and inane blather that displaced any real information, she resorted to drawing political cartoons and posting them on the Web.

Lacking sufficient mental stimulation from either of his jobs, and commuting without a working radio, he found himself daydreaming and telling himself jokes to allay the suffocating tedia.

_____

Use it! Pass it on! Post a comment and share.

Cite it with a link-back!  Short link: http://wp.me/p10w9-Kp

Standard URL:

https://qw88nb88.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/i-bequeath-the-world-a-neologism-because-there-is-need/

Why a doorstop?

Rough wood doorstop with "Why" markered on top

(The doorstop is actually upside-down, and reads, “Gym”.)

Neither daft nor a bit deaf, just –

Well, more than once-in-a-while I misunderstand what I hear. Especially if I’m preoccupied, or the environment is noisy, and rather much if the other person is mumbly.

Quite likely the funniest Auditory Processing glitch I’ve had yet:

A grocery customer comes by and asks, “Do you have any haggis?”
(Mind you, I’m in the States; most groceries don’t even carry haggis, traditional or vegetarian.)

Turned out he was enquiring about
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
hacky sacks!

And no, we don’t generally carry those either, tho’ at the beginning of summer we get various toys in our seasonal aisle (sidewalk chalk, soap bubbles, jacks, pool floats and such).

Sometimes people ask for the oddest things at the grocery … this week someone wanted a printer cable — a serial port* printer cable! At least we got ourselves sorted before getting as far as the breakfast cereal aisle.

__________

* For you non-technical folks, that’s an older piece of equipment, not something you might find at a big supermarket, like cheap headphones, CDRs, or power strips.

One Or More

Do you like odd words? If so, today’s post is for YOU!

I enjoy words. I love learning new words, and now and then feel the need to make nifty neologisms. I take pleasure in playing word games and punning around. I use a vigorous vocabulary for producing prose and programming. I revel in vicious verbiage when needing venomous invective.

Weird words are wonderful. Exceptions excite intrigue. Luckily for us, the English language (in its multitudinous international forms) is known for being an absolute mish-mosh of exceptions to dang near every orthographic rule that has been imposed upon it over the centuries. This is not surprising considering how many other languages have been sources for our vocabulary!

Being familiar with many of those weirdnesses is great when one is an editor, writer or proofreader. (Alas, not everyone shares such passions, so we logophiles must sometimes refrain from exercising too much pedantry.*) It also gives me a number of opportunities for musing …

Today I ran some errands on the way home, which caused me to take a different pathway. En route, I espied a cellular antennae tower array (mobile phone mast), one of those tall poles with transceivers and other prickly bits plated upon them. Several of those tower arrays or television UHF/VHF (Yagi-Uda) sets atop houses are called antennas. But — insects sniff their environments with antennae.

Some words are the same whether you have one or more; not just the same spelling in singular and plural, but also the same pronunciation:

Fish (As children, many of us learned this from Dr Seuss, “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish”). Ditto salmon and trout. (I bet readers can inform me of other species of fish.)

Thrips (A small insect that often infests flowers and spreads diseases; especially problematic in greenhouses.)

Sheep, deer, moose.

Bison – pedantic technical note: the North American animal is a bison, not a buffalo, but buffalo is so entrenched in history (i.e. Buffalo Soldiers, buffalo nickel) that the term “bison” seems reserved for ecological/zoological discussions.

The American buffalo has just one species: Bison bison. A single category of interbreeding organism is a species, several are different kinds are also species. “Specie” refers to coins, such as our buffalo nickel. If I recall correctly, one of the new coins the U.S. mint has released in their recent series is a nickel with a bison on one side. Series is another word that is the same in both singular and plural.

Swine (unlike pig -> pigs or hog -> hogs)

Complaint:  people calling plural bovine animals “cows”; the cow is a female that has calved. Call them a herd of cattle. Of course, then one has the problem of knowing if the single animal is a calf, cow, [castrated] steer, or bull. Then again, depending upon where you are, most of the cattle one passes might be breeding or milking cows, or maybe young steers shortly destined to be burgers and roast-beast. But like “buffalo”, “cows” seems to be a common-usage term.

(Except, of course, amongst small children, who invariably call them “moo-cows”, which is odd because I’ve never heard any preschoolers saying “quack-ducks”, “neigh-horses”, “baa-sheep” or “meow-cats”; go figure.)

Interestingly, draft bovine (used for ploughing) are ox -> oxen. There are few words that retain this archaic plural: child -> children, one brother -> several brethren, and hose -> hosen (from when one tied their individual hose onto the hem of a garment). Clothes is one of those words that just comes in single form, except it is by default plural.

When I teach gardening classes, I add a couple seconds pause after explaining, “If you’re making a new garden bed, you can either kill what’s there with glyphosate, or slice off the pieces of turf and re-use them, or compost the turves.” Turves is the correct plural for pieces of turf, but we don’t use the term much, so there’s a bit of a mental speed-bump.

Did you know that J.R.R. Tolkien invented dwarves as the plural for his Middle-Earth race? All other sorts (cutesy fantasy beings, or small-growing forms of plants or animals) are dwarfs.

In Zoology class we learned that the plural of penis is penes. Common usage (when not using one of the many silly slang terms) is penises. But if you are needing to talk discretely over the heads of younger folk, penes will likely be off their radar.

Right now I’m listening to Etta James singing the blues; no one ever sings “a blue” (tho’ you can blow a blue note).

Then there are the pluralisation questions about which only geeks worry: one Mus musculus is a mouse, and several are mice. But what about the computer accessory (um, Mus digitus ?) – computer mouses or computer mice?

One datum, a bunch of data. But when or how the hell does a person have just ONE datum? A single point?  I suppose that’s possible, unlike news. Good or bad, there’s never just one news. A “new”? I tend to get out of the news loop when on holiday; but invariably when I catch up, I find that the news seems more like recycled “olds”!

One spectrum, a wide spectra, as in “spectral analysis” – unless of course, one is doing a bunch of analyses on your spectra data.

How about one index -> two indices. Indexes is a verb: “My program indexes everything for me!” Then of course, it turns around and creates indexes to hold that data. Hmn. Meanwhile, we still have one index -> two indices in science, and on the radio news I hear indices used as indicators of how the world is going.

In geometry, our geometric shapes have sides (planes). Each pair of planes intersect at edge, and several will meet at the corner, called a vertex. A triangular pyramid has four vertices and a cube has eight.

And lastly, Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message,” meaning that what is used to spread the message is important. Newspapers, YouTube videos, and blogs are all kinds of media. So too are my choice of growing medium for my seedlings.
If some yahoo grabs a can of spray paint as their medium of choice, and scrawls a graffito on the side of a building, you can be sure that someone else will want to join in and next thing you know, there will be graffiti everywhere.
My thanks (always plural) to all my readers!
______

*Unlike those grammar mavens dedicated to eradicating excessive and misused apostrophes, whom I heartily encourage to be ever-ready with their jumbo-size bottles of correction fluid!

Also, thank you everyone for your tireless efforts trying to rid the world of misspellings; Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I know that I shall be wanting to face-palm with each sale banner for  Valentines Bokay’s.

Life in elastic, it’s fantastic!

So I set another knee support the counter, when the pharmacist noticed my compression gloves, which I wear for arthritis & Raynaud’s.

“Life in elastic, it’s fantastic!” I joked, riffing a line from the chorus of a pop tune. That got me a friendly smile, but I’m not sure she had heard the song, “Barbie Girl” by the Danish pop group, Aqua. (Fun trivia: the toy company that owns the rights to the Barbie doll, Mattel, filed a lawsuit against the record company, but Judge Kozinski opined, “The parties are advised to chill.”)

Of course, the thing about pop tunes is how well they stick in your head; and I finally got around to writing the rest of my own version!

(Unofficial version of just the music and captioned lyrics, in case you’re not familiar with it; the original is slightly risqué.)

I’M A BENDY GIRL

Hi Bendy
Hi there!
Do you wanna go for a spin?
Sure do!
Jump in…

I’m a bendy girl, in a bruising world
Life in elastic, it’s fantastic!
Dust my derrière, I fall everywhere
Articulation, brace for recreation.
Come on bendy, let’s go mend ye!

I’m a bendy girl, in a bruising world
Life in elastic, it’s fantastic!
Cinch and tie my splint, secure my ligament
Hyper-extensible, I’m too flexible.

I’m a spry stretchy girl, in my rubbery world
Strap me right, make it tight, loose is folly.
Oh rag doll, trip and fall, feel the footings you take,
hold my arm, what’s the harm, I’ll uphold you.
You can lift, you can help, if you say: “Just when you need,”

oo-ooh-ooh

I’m a bendy girl, in a bruising world
Life in elastic, it’s fantastic!
Reinforce my knees, fortify me please.
Irrepressible, we’re adaptable.

Come on bendy, let’s go mend ye!
ah-ah-ah-yeah
Come on bendy, let’s go mend ye!
oo-ooh-ooh, oo-ooh-ooh
Come on bendy, let’s go mend ye!
ah-ah-ah-yeah
Come on bendy, let’s go mend ye!
oo-ooh-ooh, oo-ooh-ooh

Make me bind, make me brace, do whatever it takes
I can strengthen myself, to avoid further breaks.
Come bounce in, bendy friend, let us try it again,
rejuvenate, renovate, let’s go mend ye!
You can lace, you can zip, if you say: “Just where you want,”
You can wind, you can wrap, if you say: “Just where you want,”

Come on bendy, let’s go mend ye!
ah-ah-ah-yeah
Come on bendy, let’s go mend ye!
oo-ooh-ooh, oo-ooh-ooh
Come on bendy, let’s go mend ye!
ah-ah-ah-yeah
Come on bendy, let’s go mend ye!
oo-ooh-ooh, oo-ooh-ooh

I’m a bendy girl, in a bruising world
Life in elastic, it’s fantastic!
You never lack in care, unhinge me anywhere
Lest subluxation, need relocation.

I’m a bendy girl, in a bruising world
Life in elastic, it’s fantastic!
Watch my limber pose, stretching neck to toes
Flexibility, my resiliency.

Come on bendy, let’s go mend ye!
ah-ah-ah-yeah
Come on bendy, let’s go mend ye!
oo-ooh-ooh, oo-ooh-ooh
Come on bendy, let’s go mend ye!
ah-ah-ah-yeah
Come on bendy, let’s go mend ye!
oo-ooh-ooh, oo-ooh-ooh

Oh my, I feel so nimble!
Well Bendy, we’re just getting started
Aw, I love your class!

V1brat0rs for Ensuring All Your Cucumber Needs

Bug G. Membracid recently had a radio show appearance!  (Is it called an “appearance” when you’re on a wireless programme and no one can see you?  Nevermind.)

But it featured her line about honeybees being ‎”little flying phalluses” – which is really funny when you remember that worker honeybees are girls!

That in turn reminded me of a story during a horticultural study tour to a Dutch production greenhouse …

Tomatoes and peppers do not need insects to transfer pollen between flowers, as the flowers are “perfect” (have both male & female parts). But for the pollen to get moved/bumped from the pistils to the stigma there still needs to be some kind of wind or other vibration.

There’s not enough wind for this to naturally happen (or rather, efficiently happen) in a greenhouse, especially when the panes are shut to the weather. So it used to be that the operators would equip their greenhouse workers with *little vibrating wands* (oh yes), which they used to buzz-pollinate Every. Single. Fresh. Flower. (Insert inevitable sniggers from the undergrads.) Of course, that’s a lot of paid worker hours.

Nowadays the thrifty Dutch use bumblebees, who work for much cheaper wages of cardboard nesting boxes and some supplemental nectar. The big, gentle bees still visit all the flowers for the pollen, and resultant heavy buzzing results in flower fertilization for good crops.

 

[N.B.  Derf; "cucumbers in the title is incorrect - they DO need to be insect pollinated! Except of course for the parthenogenetic cukes, which basically set fruit by a sort of "virgin birth" process...]

4011 IF EAT THEN SIT

My hungry 9-month old grandson is being a wiggle-worm.  He wants his banana now, and like Prot, is trying to eat it whole, peel and all.

“Come on lad, let Grandma mash this up for you – no, we don’t eat the peel – here’s your high chair -”

Much squirming and complaining, “NANA NANA!”  (I’m not sure if by “nana” he means banana or some pet name for grandma; I’m usually the one who brings home the bananas from the market, and the one who feeds him an evening snack of “happy smile fruits” — our code name for the nosh of choice, especially if we’ve run out.)

“Ow no let go of my glasses, Grandma can’t feed you until you’re in your chair-”  This operation of Insert Boy B Into Chair C almost takes two women.

I revert back to child-training using simple commands. Given enough repetitions, it will sink in, just like “OPEN” [mouth], “NO BITING”, “TOUCH GENTLY” [flowers, cats], “STILL” [stay in place for diapering], “REACH UP” [un/dressing], and all those other thrilling conversations.

“IF eat, THEN sit!”

The lad was sufficiently startled by this novel command to pause a split-second, thus allowing us to plop his tuchis on the chair and snap on the tray.  We’ll be using the IF-THEN logic construct for the next few years, along with FIRST-THEN.  (There’s nothing like reinforcing order of operations, whether mathematical or procedural.)

Now I can finally start spooning mashed banana into the lad’s mouth, and he’s thumping his feet and smacking his hands on the tray with delight, exclaiming a pleased, “Nom-nom nom!”  (Seriously.)

“That’s a good boy,” cooed his mum, “Listen to Grandma’s Boolean logic!”

Ah, the great moments of geeky family life – gotta love ‘em!

P.S.  4011 refers to an imaginary line of programming code, and also to the grocer’s PLU number for bananas.

Web buzzing

Just wanted to share some cool things I found recently!

INSECT-RELATED FUN

Amazonian ants apparently adore Tetris – ’tis a tee from Threadless Tees.

Cartoon with a green background, the upper half with five army ants on a branch, carrying pieces of leaves cut into various Tetris shapes. Below, the crowned queen ant awaits by a Tetris-shaped stack of pieces. (Unfortunately, she's about to get a square and won't have a place to set it!)

and,

NPR has a short episode with guest comments by the inimitable entolomogist and highly entertaining author, May Berenbaum,

There has been a worldwide proliferation of urinal flies, observed May Berenbaum, head of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois in her new book The Earwig’s Tail.

You can listen to the episode and/or read the transcript, “There’s A Fly In My Urinal”.

realistic black and white fly decal

and,

Jessica (the painter) and James (the author) of Project InSECT have a couple of books out, How Mildred Became Famous (book I and book II).  Mildred is a mantis, and one of the many gorgeous, large paintings that Jessica has done.

Detailed painting of Mildred, the praying mantis, plain chiaroscuro background

GARDENING / NATURE

A brief video:  One year in 40 seconds. Eirik Solheim’s gorgeous time-lapse of Norweigian woods.  Suitably short for the ADHD brain or a coffee break.  (Alas, I’ve tried several ways to get this URL embedded so it will display from this post, but WordPress is being funky.  So you’ll just have to copy-paste it to get to the YouTube page directly.)

youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmIFXIXQQ_E

and of course, a bit of geeky

ACCESSIBILITY


A dismotivational poster with the image of a Dalek (robot from Dr Who show) stuck in a concrete room with only stairs as a means of exit; its word balloon says, "FUCK". The poster caption is, "LIMITATIONS everyone has them"

Occupational Hazards

No matter what your job, there are some frequent questions or comments from the general public that get, shall we say, a tad tiresome.

I thought it would be interesting to make up a brief questionnaire and select a few nominees.  If you would also like to join in, please do!  Just post your answers below, or put a link on your blog to this post.

Q.: What term or phrase from your job/occupation do people mangle?

A.:  Entomology often gets changed to “Ant-o-mology”, as though we only study ants.  Not even Edward O. Wilson is an “antomologist”; he is (among other things) a myrmecologist.

Q.: What broadly erroneous assumption do people make about your preferences and your career choice?

A.:  That I love all insects.  Really, I don’t. (Although I will be quick to point out that only 1 % of the insects are pests.)  I do find grasshoppers to be kind of gross, especially after scrubbing their encrusted remains off my automobile windshield, and spending hours driving a riding mower and having them bounce off my face.  Blech.

Q.: What trivia challenge do people pose when they hear about what you do for a living?

A.:  “Wow, I bet you know all the bugs!”  No.  There are over one million species, mostly beetles, and I’m more familiar with butterflies.

Q.: What basic fact about your job/occupation do people rarely understand?

A.:  That insects are animals.  “Yes, they are.  They’re not plants, not fungi, not single-cell organisms.  They have organ systems and behaviors, and are not photosynthetic.”

Q.: Did you always want to be a/n  ___?

A.:  “Huh?  Sorry, distracted watching this bug.  Look here at what it’s doing–”

Q.: You musta been a weird kid, huh?

A.:  Yeah, but now I get paid to teach the other weird kids.

Q.: How did some totally unrelated previous job prepare you for your current occupation?

A.:  I went from doing behavioral observations of insects to behavioral observations of students with severe emotional and behavioral problems.  There are more similarities than you’d imagine.

Q.: So what do you do for a living?

A.: Do you mean my daytime, evening, or weekend job?

I would love to hear the answers from Dave Hingsburger, Bug Girl, Dean Dad, Wheelchair Dancer, and YOU.

Goldfish resting by an open fire

What a day!  There’s nothing so “fun” as grocering the day before a holiday, especially when the meteorology report is dire.  Guess what I found while stocking the doggy chews?

Yes indeedy, The Bad Goldfish were back, undeterred by the possibility of ending up as frozen fish from the weather.  Planning for their Christmas, they had picked up a couple bags of fresh chestnuts, but once again, got distracted and left their produce behind.

“Ooh, look!  Oyster-shell treats!”

Bags of chestnuts, abandoned in front of a packet of oyster-shell dog chews.

Merry Christmas to folks, and don’t forget to remind the kids, “Now remember, put your things away, lest The Bad Goldfish come and steal them!”

The Goldfish are back!

So today when I was stocking groceries, I found some more evidence of malfeasance.  This time it was not a compromised package with the seal broken or contents used, but rather, groceries abandoned in odd places.  (Thankfully, not perishables, like lunch meat stuck behind cookies, or yogurt tubs amongst the baking tins, ugh.)

This time, it was a russet potato and a couple of yellow potatoes left on the bottom shelf underneath the peg racks of razors.

“Must be them Bad Goldfish again,” I mumbled to myself.   Apparently they thought you could peel taters with a disposable razor!  Stupid goldfish.

So why were the potatoes left there?

Because goldfish have short memories, of course.

Thieves!

Grocery stockers are well-familiar with the sight:  random empty boxes that are the hidden leftovers to stolen goods.  Cold medicine.  Hair coloring.  Condoms.  Diapers. Candy.

A couple days ago I found a different wrapper stuffed behind the tidy stacks of soap bars, a small cylinder of fish food, with the plastic lid missing and the foil seal compromised.  About a teaspoon of flakes were gone.

I showed it off to my coworker, Becky.  “Don’t you just hate it when those damn goldfish come into the store and steal things?!”

Hanging around the Web

Cruising the Web BW

A shiny robot spider hangs upside-down from a metal mesh

My son and I recently hauled a long dresser+mirror up two flights of stairs, and I cleaned up the master bedroom in preparation for the return of the new baby & parents from the hospital.  The downside of course is that after a day of labor, I must spend a couple-three days recuperating.  (In other words, I used up all my “spoons”, down to the last demitasse.)

I’m also on Day 2 of one of those low-grade-three-day migraines.  Right now it’s manifesting as misreads, which when I catch myself is kind of entertaining:

In light of all that, I thought I’d share some interesting reads/cool finds on the Web recently:

My sleep-deprived daughter would be envious of ant queens, who spend nine hours a day sleeping, while the workers must squeeze in micro-naps.

From the world of delightful architecture, an adult tree[less] house shaped like a bee skep, made of recycled lumber (wheelie adaptation not included).

The CitizenM hotels have the most amazing showers, which look like Star Trek transporter pads.  To start the shower, you simply shut the door.  I don’t know if they’re large enough for a wheelchair transfer to a shower seat, but with the zero-clearance there’s a chance of it (maybe Dave knows). Want!  (Or at least the trés geek LED shower head that changes from blue to red when your water’s hot.)

Reimer Reason posted It’s a Family Reunion! for the most recent Disability Blog Carnival.

In further hexapod news:  while I was distracted by our little geekling, Bug Girl has been faithfully covering Pollinator Week, including important information about CHOCOLATE. For more funs, Cheshire has teh latest Circus of the Spineless up.

And of course, what would a list of fun be without a LOLcat?

Six white kittens lined up and looking at the camera, while a seventh is distracted with a play ball

Six white kittens lined up and looking at the camera, while a seventh is distracted with a play ball. The photo caption reads, "PUZZLE PICTURE Find the kitten who has ADD."

Hotbed of Apathy

*sniff, sniff*

“You sound sick,” stated my daughter’s fiancé, M.

“I can’t be sick,” I mumbled in protest, and honked into a tissue.

“Redunculus; you’re sniffling.”

“I can’t be sick; it was Mr W’s day to be sick,” I explained.  “He got first dibs on being out sick today …  If all the classroom staff members who were sick stayed home, there wouldn’t be anyone left!”

I’m sure the students wouldn’t have minded having some of their classes cancelled.  But no, we slogged through the day, hour after dreary, mind-numbing, O-PLZ-STFU hour.  It was, I decided, a veritable hotbed of apathy.  The lead teacher was battling a sinus infection, and I was suffering from what felt like temporal phase-shifts.  And my aches ached.  My ears were ringing and making sharp pains and I was having dizzy spots and nausea.  I was cold and then would have a sneezing fit and then be hot, and would have some odd spastic tic and then be cold again.  They cannot invent a vaccine for this shit any day too soon.

It’s worse when you’re feeling crappy and working 60 hours a week. But it seems like every few days I discover yet another person who’s working multiple jobs, the latest being a cashier with two jobs and Lupus.  (Maybe what the economy really needs is for everyone to take a week off just to get some rest already.  All in favor say, “Aye!”)

And then there’s the strange stress nightmares I get before a semester starts, going through an interminable dream about teaching 3rd grade but starting the same day the students do, and having an unworkable U-shaped classroom without a chalkboard or whiteboard, and the women’s bathroom stalls all cost 75 cents in quarters to use, and …

If you, too, are ready for a diversion, our favorite engineers (previous post) have a new video up on Advanced Cat Yodeling.  M just about ROTFL, as he has been Yodeling with his cats for a long time, and favors the Machine Gun Kiss™  approach.

Gone Bananas

A few weeks ago …

“4011 !” I exclaimed to my daughter.

She looked up from her Mac where she was composing her latest essay. “What?” she asked in confusion.

“They started me on cashiering today at the grocery.  4011 !”

And then we both broke out laughing.

“4011″ of course being the PLU (Price Look Up) code for bananas.

shipping cartons full of bananas

shipping cartons full of bananas

When she started as a grocery cashier the other year, my daughter had commented in amazement at how many people came through with bananas.  So many in fact, that she too had learned that number the first night, just from sheer force of repetition.

I would have thought that apples would be the most-commonly purchased fruit.  But no, endless bunches of bananas came through.

Not only bunches of bananas, but also bunches of people with similar behavioral patterns, which I found to be rather interesting:

  • People with a large bunch of greenish bananas.  (I wondered if they were feeding a lot of people, or simply don’t care about the stage of ripeness when eating them.)
  • Customers trying to balance their fruit bowl with a couple each of greenish and yellow bananas.
  • Parents herding several small children, with bunches of bananas that had the requisite number of stickers for each child to have one. These were difficult checking assignments — not because of the parents, but because as a cashier I was also trying to keep track of the assorted tots with regards to alerting their adult to their safety, or asking their adult if the candy or toy items coming down the conveyor belt were approved purchases.
  • People with bunches of the organically-grown bananas (PLU 94011; all the organic produce starts with a 9).
  • Tired working folks picking up a sandwich from the deli, a banana, and an energy drink for their meal.
  • Frazzled parents rushing through with bananas, applesauce and bread. ( = “BRAT diet”: bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, a menu for dealing with diarrhea via dietary intervention.)
  • Frequent shoppers with just a few yellow bananas — I heard a lot of apologetic explanations about not being able to plan ahead for weekly menus and shopping lists, and wondered why some people felt the need to explain their purchase choices, unbidden.
  • A few elderly shoppers who explained that they couldn’t carry many grocery bags, or used frequent shopping as a means of getting out of the house.  After a while, I realised that such explanations were probably a curious form of chit-chat.

Although I began to develop my own “scripts” for appropriate cashier dialogs, I found that cashiering is a more challenging position than I had anticipated.  This is because there are a number of different kinds of simultaneous cognitive demands, involving spatial handling, operational sequencing, data entry, calculations, communicating in a noisy environment despite my auditory processing issues, struggling to identify numerous coworkers despite faceblindness, and socialising with the appropriate amount of eye contact and proscribed chit-chat.

Cashiering doesn’t just mean scanning groceries and making change.  I am not only trying to scan accurately and quickly, but also:

  • performing subtle security checks to make sure that no one is walking off with unchecked goods on the bottoms of their carts or pocketing the candy and other small goods near the register racks;
  • sorting the goods as I move it down towards the bagger courtesy clerk in whatever organisational method that person prefers;
  • querying the customer about coupons and whether they wanted the gallon milks bagged and if they want candy and greeting cards handed to them instead of bagged
  • explaining discounts and how gift cards work;
  • looking up endless PLU codes for the numerous types of untagged produce;
  • watching out for children’s safety;
  • greeting the next customer in line so they didn’t feel neglected during the wait;
  • trying to remember who the manager is that night for when I need to call them to void a mis-scan;
  • and of course, bagging while I check when the regular courtesy clerk has switched from my lane to another with greater need.

When bagging, bananas are a tricky item.  I can put vulnerable loaves of bread atop the fragile egg cartons, but aside from soft packs of sugar, toilet paper or maxi-pads, there are few items that will co-exist happily with bananas when packed in limp plastic bags.

Given that bananas are nutritious, don’t require refrigeration or heating, and can be eaten quickly, they have recently filled my lunchbox, er, meals-box that carries both my lunch and third meal.  I drive directly from one job to the next, with just 10-15 minutes for a snack to tide me over between 11 a.m. lunch and clocking out again at 8 p.m.  (I usually have a fourth meal when I get home; call these breakfast-lunch-tea/supper-dinner or whatever, but the third meal is usually rather minimal.)  So what’s the best way to transport a banana safely?  I drop it into a tall plastic drink cup.

Thankfully, I spend most of my time at the garden center end, rather than endless hours of checking. But in this latest addition to my repertoir of work roles, I have literally gone bananas.

That joist isn’t funny

squeeee-squeeey-squeeeeee

The bathroom to the master bedroom is above the kitchen, and when someone is (dressing? brushing their teeth? pacing?) at a particular spot, the floor squeaks abominably, like two pieces of Styrofoam [polystyrene] being scraped together.  (Were this a ground level floor, we could go to the basement to hammer in some splints in the joists.  But of course there’s a ceiling in the way, so we’re stuck and I just have to cope.)

squeeee-squeeey-skwor-skwork-squeeey

There are some noises that make me flinch, jump out of my seat, and/or send me packing from the room.  Not just the typical squeaky things, like the proverbial (and literal) fingernails-on-the-blackboard, but also fire alarms, theatre movies, teakettle whistles, the shattering of dropped water glasses, chainsaws and leaf-blowers and string-trimmers and hedge clippers and table saws and wood chippers and …  Okay, lots of people dislike those noises, but during the quarterly fire drills only another staff member and I are plugging our ears in distress as we herd the students outside.

Then there are the more mundane noises that no one expects anyone to mind: the sour whine of computer hard drives going bad, the strident jangling of class bells echoing down tiled hallways, the cavernous reverberation and intense whirring of elevators,  “merely” stacking pots and pans and shutting the stove drawer where they’re kept, the clanking when stacking ceramic casseroles in the cabinet, or the grating squeal of the pressure-hinge when opening and shutting an aluminum storm door.  (WD-40 is my friend, and periodically I go around the house and spray every room and cabinet door hinge before I “come unhinged”.)

Even my apartment neighbors thought me overly “picky” because I asked them if they could be quieter when washing dishes or taking a shower or walking about in boots or high heels.  Even everyday noises like vacuuming or their sputtering coffeemaker and beeping microwaves or their tinny radio and yakkity telly programs would drive me ’round the twist.

Sometimes it’s neither the suddenness nor the loudness nor the high pitch of the noise, but the combined effects of all the daily noises, the “life in surround-sound” as described in “Bridge Load Limit”.  As I’ve described before, hyperacussis is a “super-power” that truly, truly sucks, even when you don’t have a profoundly debilitating case.

I’m with Karl !

LOLcat Karl makes an anguished face as another cat asks, "They say itz a sound only we can hear. IDK. I don't hear anything Karl. Do u?"

Where are my offerings?

I am become divine.

When I walk quietly down the hall and come up to one of the students, he often turns around and exclaims, “Oh my god!”

(Dark chocolate and garden plants are acceptable.)

Itsy-Bitsy

The other night we were holding vigil in the ER (A&E) waiting rooms while a family member was being treated.  Having spent plenty of hours in the waiting places of life, I had brought with me my latest amusement, a sorting box containing a bunch of old necklaces that I was dismantling for salvageable parts.  Aside from the whole reason for being in the waiting room, it was a pleasant experience, and I sat there rocking slightly, filled with the delight of organising bits into rainbow order.

I parked myself in an empty waiting area down the hall from the seats by the ER entrance, free of drafts from the automatic doors, the distractions of anxious people bursting in, and germ-laden sneezes.  I sat there snipping strings, slipping off beads where they rattled into a tray, sorting them, scooping the pieces into small containers, and carefully snapping lids shut.

So I was sitting there at a table where I could keep an eye on the hallway, when a guy shuffled into my airspace.  The first thing I noticed about him was that he reeked of old cigarette smoke and looked disheveled, which I discounted slightly as no one spiffs up for ER visits.  As he began talking to me, I noticed that his speech and comprehension were a bit off, and quickly realised this wasn’t likely a manifestation of an intrinsic impairment — the grungy bloke was drunk.

Oh, joys ( /sarcasm).  I don’t like chit-chat*, and here I was being engaged by a garrulous drunkard.  We then had the most incredible conversation, which he began by asking me,

“Are you counting pills for the pharmacy?”

(Yeah, this was my first clue that the guy was drunk.) Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t scream.

It’s only Thursday.  Screaming isn’t allowed until Friday afternoon after all the students have left.  (Please don’t scare the custodians, without whom we would all be in dire straits.)

We passed our “Code Red” practice drill with flying colors this week.  A “Code Red” is an “OMG there’s a terrorist” lockdown, the 21st-century version of the old “duck and cover” drills we did decades ago during the Cold War.  I suppose it’s actually more useful — locking the doors and being quiet is definitely better than pretending that a rickety school desk will protect one from nuclear radiation.

On the other hand, in the past three weeks we’ve had as many pre-teen perverts scurrilous knaves who thought they could get away with trying to Google up p*rn from the school computers.  As if we’re not going to catch them?!  Well, that’s three students who won’t be using computers except for absolutely required functions, with a staff member at their elbow the whole time.  A “required function” would be something like a math-practice program or standardized test that is required by the school district.

Right now we’re administering a reading assessment, and already we’re tired of reciting the standardized instructions, for all I do a decent imitation of a Star Trek computer.

If you want more stories of academia, the latest Carnival of Education is going on over at The Core Knowledge blog.  I guarantee “they’re a scream” (hilarious).  Or, enlightening.  Probably both.

Otherwise, here’s a great sign that will be appreciated by anyone who has either sat one of those long standardized tests, or proctored one:

Sign taped to table, in poorly-translated English:  Check every think before go into the grading room.  Avoid to get screaming

Sign taped to table, in poorly-translated English: "Check every think before go into the grading room. Avoid to get screaming"

Out of the frying pan

Totally light-weight news here, while I take care of tonnes of paperwork and finish another post:

Dr Graham Clayton and other scientists at University Leeds used gas chromatography mass spectrometry to determine the components of French fry / chip aroma:

chip aroma is made up of butterscotch, cocoa, onion, flowers, cheese and …

ironing boards.

1,393 page, 7.4 pound Biology textbook: $140

Self-referencing textbook diagram using said heavy tome to weigh down a Southern blot:   PRICELESS!

illustration with heavy biology textbook used to weigh down materials

illustration showing textbook used to weigh down materials

Lost in Translation

My daughter brought this quote home from college, as she though I would enjoy it — and I very much do, as I can readily identify with it.  The words had been printed out and tacked on a bulletin board, and it originates from Brian Andreas’ Story People:

There are some days
when no matter what I say
it feels like
I’m far away in another country
& whoever is doing the translating
has had far too much to drink

The absurd list

So, it’s the Last Big Push before the end of the semester — this “holiday” weekend I have to write 4 exams, make up three teaching presentations, and grade the latest set of exams and various assignments. (Oh, and send out a couple of job apps, soon as I can squeeze them in.  They’re really long shots, but “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”.)

In another 10 days or so I’ll be done with teaching classes this semester, and can focus on other things in life, like finishing my family cookbook, finish a quilt, a dozen home repairs, sorting out the basement storage area, tidying up the gardening stuff around the patio, organising my seed-starting and cleaning up my gardening tools, removing rampant garden volunteers, yadda-yadda-yadda.  Basically, everything in life that has been put on “hold” since I started working 60-50 hours per week in September.

But I thought it would fun to post the Absurd List.  You know, those things you would love to have, but would never be able to get short of a weird twist of fate.

A retired London Underground subway car recycled as an office.

Or maybe the ultimate treehouse, the “free spirit sphere”.  Of course, we don’t have the trees for such, but details, details…

What with the severe ice storms and extremes of hot and cold, few structures are quite so problematic in my climate as a fancy glasshouse. But as we know, plant-lust is an incurable condition that leaves us fondling seed-packets during the dark, short days of the year.  Our kitchen window by the table is the sunniest place in the house, so it’s hosting a small jungle of plants for the next half a year.

Of course, I wouldn’t want to be selfish, so I’d get a hot tub to put in a sunroom or somewhere.  All of us love a good soak in hot water, especially in the winter.

Ah well … back to my preps.

What’s on your Absurd List?

Sole Replacement

boot sole used as push-plate on shop door

boot sole used as push-plate on shop door

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