2007 Notebook: Weak XXXVI
gratuitous image
3 September 2007
No. 6,881 (cartoon)
You’ve wasted your life.

Only the time I spent with you.

4 September 2007
Dubious Studies Redux
It’s hard to imagine a better life than an artist’s. Except, perhaps, when it comes to easy money. That’s when it pays—figuratively and literally—to be a research scientist. It’s been a few years since I noted some studies that appear to confirm a priori knowledge: men literally drool over women, female models weigh less than their average counterparts, and so on.

And now I read headlines about two recent (un)notable scientific research projects, “Study Finds Men Go for Good Looks,” and “Rockers Are More Likely To Die Early; Study Points To Drug, Alcohol Abuse As Factors In Stars’ Premature Deaths.” In other words, men prefer attractive women over unattractive ones (based on an analysis of forty-six Germans), and accountants who enjoy a few watery beers on the weekend generally live longer than musicians who ingest enough cocaine to paralyze a hippopotamus.

I wonder if I could get some reactionary organization to give me a juicy grant to find out whether artists are slothful? What a great idea! If I ever get around to it.

5 September 2007
Immortal Dog Testicles
I wrote about Neuticles—artificial dog testicles—a couple of years ago. And now, I learned there’s a new dimension to the Ig Nobel Prize-winning invention: perpetuity. It turns out that dog owners are pulling the artificial testes from their dead dogs and planting them in their new mutts.

That makes all sorts of sense. Since people generally outlive their dogs, I suppose it’s nice to have continuity from one beast to the next. I read that the Neuticles Internet site even has a helpful “how-to” video, but I’m too squeamish to watch it.

6 September 2007
Spreading Fisheries Stupidity
Minnisha reports that things are grim at the one hundred and thirty-seventh annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society. The fishy situation is more bleak than ever, and, to make matters worse, so are the presentations addressing the fishes’ grim plight.

According to Minnisha, the authors offered tedious papers of little consequence. And what’s more, the offerings were poorly-edited, and based on scant data. She was so frustrated after a particularly poor presentation, that during the question-and-answer segment, she asked, “Do you realize that everyone in the room feels stupider for having listened to you?”

The presenter smiled, thinking that she’d complimented him on his superior intellect. Everyone else in the room also expressed satisfaction; they knew what she really meant.

7 September 2007
There You Are
“There you are,” said the inventor, “electronic television.”

That’s what Philo Taylor Farnsworth said here in San Francisco eighty years ago today, when he first demonstrated his insidious creation. Although I’m not hesitant to interject my biased opinions, I think Farnsworth wouldn’t dispute my description of his creation. According to his son Kent, “I suppose you could say that he felt he had created kind of a monster, a way for people to waste a lot of their lives.”

The RCA corporation and its battalion of lawyers prevented Farnsworth from fully capitalizing on his invention; he went on to suffer from depression, alcoholism, and shock therapy. Still he managed to demonstrate good judgment in some areas.

“There’s nothing on [television] worthwhile,” Farnsworth told his son, “and we’re not going to watch it in this household.”

No wonder Farnsworth was one of the most respected inventors—and television critics—of the twentieth century.

gratuitous image
8 September 2007
Twenty-Two Kilogram Facial Tumor
Annalee told me she likes the old tale of the ninety-kilogram ovarian cyst, and asked me if I’d heard the current story of the largest known facial tumor. I told her that I had not, so she showed me a photograph.

“It’s only twenty-two kilograms,” Annalee said defensively, “but it’s a lot more visible.”

The Fuda Cancer Hospital in Guangzhou, China, released a photograph of Huang Chuncai, who suffered from a meter-long tumor before the successful operation to remove it. Unfortunately, the thirty-one year old man nevertheless suffered permanent injuries from the growth, which was first spotted when he was four years old. The tumor deformed an ear, his teeth, his spine, and blocked his left eye.

I agreed with Annalee; Chuncai’s tragic case was as exceptional as it was tragic. Having said that, I’ve decided not to write about upsetting medical conditions for quite some time, if only to stop my friends from trying to introduce me to increasingly disturbing stories.

9 September 2007
Checkers Redefined
University of Alberta researchers have concluded that Chinook, the checkers program they created, will never ever lose a game. The best possible outcome an opponent can hope for is a draw.

I rarely play checkers, and, when I do, I don’t play very well. Nevertheless, I find this news rather disturbing. That’s because the scientists used rigorous math to prove that Chinook cannot be defeated.

Even for a mediocre player like myself, that conceptually changes the nature of the game. Suddenly, checkers is as predictable as tic-tac-toe.

Oh well, there’s always chess. I’m even worse at chess than checkers, but at least it’s not a mathematical certainty that I can’t possibly win the next game against the most formidable computer opponent. Even if such a victory is about as probable as snowshoeing across San Francisco Bay, it’s still an important distinction.

last weak  |  index  |  next weak

©2007 David Glenn Rinehart