A meme

Jul. 8th, 2017 01:13 pm
hollymath: (Default)
Nicked this from [personal profile] mrs_leroy_brown because I was just getting myself riled up looking at twitter, and figured I could use something brainless to do.

Are you named after someone?
My middle name is Michelle because I share my birthday with my dad's brother, Michael.

Cut to save your scrolling fingers )
hollymath: (Default)
So they call it a "Senate" in Canada, but it sounds like it's just the House of Lords!

I'm embarrassed by how surprised I was to learn this, especially in a conversation in the pub with a Canadian who, y'know, thinks highly of me.

At least they don't have bishops in the government!

But man. I need a good recommendation for a book about Canadian history and/or politics. They didn't teach me anything in school.
hollymath: (Default)
I found this on Facebook a while ago and found it so phenomenally useful that I wanted to a) go back and make sure I was still explaining it right and b) put it somewhere I can link people to it or read it again if I want to.

Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order.

Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, "Life is unfair" and "Why me?" That's the one payoff for being in the center ring.

Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.

When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you're going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn't, don't say it. So say, "I'm sorry" or "This must really be hard for you" or "Can I bring you a pot roast?" Don't say, "You should hear what happened to me" or "Here's what I would do if I were you." And don't say, "This is really bringing me down."

If you want to scream or cry or complain, if you want to tell someone how shocked you are or how icky you feel, or whine about how it reminds you of all the terrible things that have happened to you lately, that's fine. It's a perfectly normal response. Just do it to someone in a bigger ring.

Comfort IN, dump OUT.

Complaining to someone in a smaller ring than yours doesn't do either of you any good. On the other hand, being supportive to her principal caregiver may be the best thing you can do for the patient.

Most of us know this. Almost nobody would complain to the patient about how rotten she looks. Almost no one would say that looking at her makes them think of the fragility of life and their own closeness to death. In other words, we know enough not to dump into the center ring. Ring Theory merely expands that intuition and makes it more concrete: Don't just avoid dumping into the center ring, avoid dumping into any ring smaller than your own.

Remember, you can say whatever you want if you just wait until you're talking to someone in a larger ring than yours.
I'm finding it really useful in curbing my desire/habit/reflex to say "Oh, something a bit like that happened to me" (which often is a misapplication of the well-intentioned desire to offer empathy and solidarity), but where I'm really getting the benefit of it is identifying this as a thing that makes me uncomfortable or unhappy in interactions I see, for instance, among my own family. My horrible aunt has a horrible tendency to "dump in." My brother dying was a huge problem for her, as she told my mom at every available opportunity. I always knew this kind of thing was awful behavior, but it helps to have a way to articulate it.
hollymath: (i love)
...I'd be nagging them for a quilt that looks like this.

It's time zones in Antarctica.
Given that Antarctica rests on every line of longitude, you might be tempted to think the continent observes every single time zone, but this is not the case. In fact, as the maps featured here illustrate, even regions that lie along the same meridian don't necessarily observe the same time zones, due in large part to the range of territorial claims on the continent. Some places — labeled in red — have no time zone, and just observe Coordinated Universal Time, by default.

Coordinated Universal Time. I know geeks will laugh at me but I think that's a wonderfully evocative phrase. Don't you want to know what that is now?

The world time zone map is rainbow-tastic as well as informative (but I don't have the odd but compelling urge to want it on a quilt like I do the Antarctica map).


Jun. 13th, 2011 07:39 pm
hollymath: (Default)
It's funny the things you don't know you know until you have some reason to call up data on a random subject.

A Facebook friend asked "Do any of you know much about Utah?" (Actually I see now that she was specifically directing this question at "'Mericans" but I jumped in long before this...) and when the first couple of comments seemed unhelpful to me -- "Mormons. Salt Lake City." "Utah Saints...duh duh duh" (and I needed Andrew to translate that second one for me) -- I wanted to combat the lazy stereotypes.

And you know, I've never even been to Utah, but without so much as looking anything up, I said "It's got one of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. (Arches National Park). I hear it's very good for skiing too, though can't vouch for that. Land speed records are set on the salt flats in Utah, and the Mythbusters sometimes blow things up there."

And when she peppered me with more questions in response to that -- "Roughly whereabouts is it? Does it cost a lot to get there? Who's the, the... what do you call them, senator or something? Does it have laws that other states don't? Is it picturesque? What's its National Park like? By which i mean... er... how big? Has it got bears in it?" -- I tried to answer them.

"Utah is in the western bit of America, not far from California in the grand scheme of things. It does indeed have mountains, the lovely Rockies. It is not a hugely populated state other than Salt Lake City so there are lots of breathtaking nature. It probably would cost a lot to go there; I can't get to the US for less than five hundred quid these days and it does tend to get more expensive as you go further west. Utah's senior senator (each state gets two) is a very very conservative, even by US standards, called Orrin Hatch." And I offered up some lovely pictures.

But man. Land speed records in the Bonneville salt flats. Messien. It's crazy the things your brain stashes away, isn't it? No reason to leave it with the lazy stereotypes if you've got stuff like that filling up your mind-tank!

I tried to tell Andrew this but now I can't get him to stop telling me things about Mormons. Oh and he told me Jello is the official snack food of Utah.


Jan. 5th, 2008 06:47 pm
hollymath: (rhubarb)
I'm reassembling the bookmarks on my new computer, and I thought I'd take the opportunity to ask what blogs you read, what things on the internet you think I'd like.

This is not only because I can't remember a lot of the stuff I had in my old bookmarks, but that helps.

So far I've got Pharyngula, Stephen Fry, Andrew's blog, and Babelfish. You see I need the help.

In 2008, minnesattva resolves to...
Buy new hackers.
Keep my narrativium clean.
Take evening classes in hedonism.
Get back in contact with some old koans.
Eat more chaos.
Stop cuddling with princemuchao.

Get your own New Year's Resolutions:
hollymath: (hollyicon)
Something I found on the Guardian website when I was looking for that other one has me despairing on a large scale but amused on a smaller one (and feeling smug, which is good too). It's a corrollary to this article about science illiteracy among normal people (at least in the UK and US, not so much in Asia or Eastern Europe) these days.*

I like to think I'm a reasonably science-savvy humanities student. Here's how I fared on the six questions asked of a panel of scientists and writers, along with some of the bits I found amusing, despairing, or at least likely to cheer me up when I got stuff wrong myself.

Q: Why does salt dissolve in water?

Funny celebrity answer (Kirsty Wark): Because it's less dense.

Me: It doesn't, does it? I mean, really. You can evaporate the water and the salt is still there, so it's not like it's chemically altered, right? I have no idea; I never really grokked chemistry.

Q: Roughly how old is the earth?

Funny celebrity answer (Susan Greenfield): Oh blimey. Well, I know that human beings have been going for about a million and a half years, so ... I'm just grasping here. Something like 60 billion years or something like that, but that's a grasp. I'm not a physical scientist and it shows. I'm probably not scientifically literate.

Me: Four and a half billion years.

Q: What happens when you turn on a light?

Funny celebrity answer (Iain Stewart): This is taking me right back to school physics. It's the kind of question I always pray a nine-year-old won't ask me. I think the switch closes a loop for the circuit.

Me: The switch closes a circuit, so electricity flows through it, and the electricity heats up the filament so it glows.

Q: Is a clone the same as a twin?

Funny celebrity answer (Daisy Goodwin): As an identical twin? That's quite interesting. No. Well, I'm not sure about that. I'd say no. But maybe yes. I'm baffled.

Me: No way! Twins have different DNA and fingerprints and stuff.

Q: Why is the sky blue?

Funny celebrity answer (Kirsty Wark): Because it's a reflection of the oceans on the planet. No idea apart from that. I think the sky is blue because... the rain clouds obscure the blue, and the blue is a reflection... because of the sunshine. Fuck! I don't know! Why is the sky blue?

Honorable mention (Robert Winston): Oh bugger, I can't remember now. Um. Oh Jesus. It isn't really blue actually. It doesn't actually have a colour at all. It just simply appears blue.

Me: Because blue light has the shortest waivelength in the visible spectrum, it gets scattered the most.

Q: What is the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

Funny celebrity answer (John O'Farrell): Let me think. Is it to do with heat conductors? Metal is an effective heat conductor and wood is not. I remember that from metalwork classes.

Me: Entropy increases in a closed system. Chaos increases.

Answers. )

How did you do?

* The clash between "the two cultures" has always been an interest, if often a sensitive subject, for me because I find myself unable to concentrate on either arts or sciences well enough to make a living from one or the other of them. My current response is to resent the Aristotelian dichotomy, but that only helps so much!

Anyway, I think if I still have a "dream job," it'd be to write what has long been my favorite kind of book, popular science renderings of the sexy complicated Universe. I was originally turned on to this by Carl Sagan, but I am always looking out for books that walk the fine line between dumbing things down in froo-froo poetic language and unreachably esoteric technical detail that leaves even well-meaning people in th dust if they're not specialists in the field bieng discussed.
hollymath: (duck)
My fortune cookie at Panda Express last Monday told me ... well, my fortune, first of all, which was something like "Change is happening in your life, so go with the flow!" (stupid but improved by Seth adding "in bed!", which I'd forgotten he does to all fortune-cookie fortunes; Elizabeth was really annoyed by hers — "Courtesy pays" — and while I must admit that fortunes should be fortunes and not advice, that one is helped by Seth's contribution).

But the other side of the paper taught me a Chinese word, with the (alleged) ideogram and all. My first one, so far as I know. Sugar, it said, is tang.

How cool is that?
hollymath: (q fry)
I can't decide if Wikipedia is good for me or if it's just squandering my youth.

Thanks, autocomplete!


Mar. 12th, 2007 09:12 am
hollymath: (q fry)
I really have to go grocery shoppng; we're out of everything again.

I should finish the dishes. The kitchen floor is sticky and I can't remember the last time it was washed.

Oh we need dish soap. And toilet paper too.

I have to remind myself of these things or else I'll get sucked into Damn Interesting like I did yesterday.

Somewhere I found a link to this damn interesting article about the strange, vivid hallucinations some people see as they're gradually losing their vision. Before I knew it, it was several hours later and I knew all about a guy who thinks three hundred years of the Middle Ages never happened. I learned to appreciate I'm actually living at quite a good time because I can still see solar eclipses but no longer are lobotomies prescribed for daydreamers. I read about something Neil Gaiman probably knew when he wrote the beginning of Sandman, and now I know the name you can call it if you too have heard all this before.

One of the things I find most interesting is that I've found stories here that I learned about on my favorite TV show, QI, or Quite Interesting — like the sad story of the Radium Girls, the fact that we have between nine and 21 senses rather than the measly five Aristotle would have us believe, and the answer to the question from how many stories should you drop a cat? Even the kind of coffee Stephen Fry gives royalty as a wedding gift shows up.

I'm having a great time here, but I fear the distraction. I've got so much to do! Man, I need this like a hole in the head


Sep. 24th, 2006 08:49 pm
hollymath: (Default)
A couple of days ago [livejournal.com profile] textivore was delighted to tell me that "someone just proposed a counterpart to transgendered: cisgendered."

I started to type a message telling him that this wasn't new, but by that point he'd said, "If you don't get that, it's a chemistry joke." Now I was excited: I keep meaning to ask or figure out where it came from, because I've often wondered about it, but I haven't managed to get around to it.

So I told him that it wasn't quite new ("well, you've had more exposure to out trans than I have" he said, and I agreed that was surely the reason, though I'm still a bit surprised when other people don't know the things I do; I seem to think that by the time they trickle down to me they must have reached everyone else already) and he told me about isomers, even grabbing a chemistry textbook to make sure he got it right. He is awesome.
hollymath: (eyebrow)
The soap dispenser to the right of the sinks in the ladies' toilets at work makes a noise when you hit it with the heel of your hand, a squeaky noise that sounds exactly like the first two or three notes of the guitar intro to Steely Dan's "Reeling in the Years."

(Or at least it did when I used it this afternoon.)
hollymath: (language)
So many of the best things I've ever heard or read or talked about have been in parentheses.

The latest, in a library book, tells me that electrocution was almost called electrothenasia or dynamort.

Dynamort! That is the best word I've heard in a long time! (Well, at least since yesterday; yesterday's was imbiß.) [livejournal.com profile] textivore said it sounds like something a Flash Gordon villain woul say: "Minions! Dynamort him!" I speculated that it could even be the name of the villain: The dreaded Dynamort.

Only it'd be written like this THE DREADED DYNAMORT!!!


May. 23rd, 2006 03:17 pm
hollymath: (geek)
I couldn't figure out at first why Trillian was underlining some words in green.

The only other time I'd seen such a thing is Gaim highlighting some words because they were spelled wrong — or, rather, because they were not in its dictionary. But that definitely is how you spell everything! And arms! And these days has a single line under both words...

They're links, though. Click on one and you have the option of searching the web for that word (or phrase) or seeing its Wikipedia entry.

And since Wikipedia includes all kinds of pop culture phenomena, lots of weird stuff gets underlined. Like stuff, which takes you to this page. Yummy zombie goo! So if I am less attentive in IM conversations, it's because I'm busy reading about space time theories of consciousness.

We apologise for any delay this may cause.


May. 5th, 2006 01:21 pm
hollymath: (car)
Here is a letter no one asked me about. I love it, though not for any words that start with it but for what it sometimes represents.

My first time, I well remember: Someone left a glowing comment about one of my LJ entries and it was someone I'd sort of admired from afar, on my friends' comments pages, before daring to claim him for my own friends page. And I commented back saying how much I was now glowing from those nice things, and then the reply was
What is that, anyway? A typo? A secret symbol? I immediately disregarded the notion of asking anyone about it, as obviously it's one of those things you're already supposed to know.

And then I saw more xs, usually at the end of friendly LiveJournal comments, and eventually it clicked that this was like the xs and os my grandma used to put after "Grandma & Grandpa" on the birthday cards.

This grandmothular analogy kept it nicely nonsexual, too, which seems to be the idea even if they are kisses, and soon I was handing them out myself, often in twos or threes, to people I barely knew and/or would not even smooch quickly on the cheek, people with whom I would feel weird doing those European air-kisses, in what they laughingly call Real Life.

It seems to be a British thing, or is associated with Britishes in my head anyway. So I try not to do it to my American friends, as I don't want to confuse them or make them worry that I intend to give them a big wet smack on the lips ("tongue, no tongue, your choice" a voice says offhandedly in my head, and it's James Garner's voice; I blame my parents' poor taste in movies).

So, if I forget and put xs after my name in my e-mails to you, don't worry. The kisses are optional -- but always an option!

It actually seems (though I'm still not sure, and I still can't ask, because I still think I'm supposed to know) to be quite a casual thing, but still carrying some weight at least sometimes: I remember [livejournal.com profile] irrtum reading a text from [livejournal.com profile] sablin1975 and saying "He put an X at the end! Tim never does that to me!", which made me laugh.

I suppose -- or, I've just decided -- that the ambiguity is part of the fun.
hollymath: (language)
English people say tra-PEE-zoid!

* Actual bad joke from my high-school geometry book.


Nov. 19th, 2005 08:24 am
hollymath: (holly)
There is apparently a (local, I think) band called The Bleeding Hickeys.

I think this is a fantastic name.
hollymath: (Default)
I am eating brownies.

I tried to avoid the lure of the brownie, reminding myself that I got half my dad's pie at Baker's Square, because he only asked for a slice and forgot to specify that he wanted a little one, so of course he got a huge one and then couldn't finish it. I hadn't really wanted any pie, but it was hard to resist the allure of the otherwise-unwanted Caramel Pecan Silk Supreme. I don't even like pie, usually, but Caramel Pecan Silk Supreme is like candy with a graham cracker crust. And I didn't want to see it go to waste!

I'm trying not to eat so much sugar. I don't think of myself as a person who eats a lot of sugar these days, but being back here I've felt inundated with it, and annoyed at myself for cheerfully submitting to it.

Like with the brownies, which I managed to resist for only half an hour or so. And when I reached into the freezer1 to grab one, I just happened to get two that were stuck together. Oops.

Barring a certain time of the month and random cravings, I don't eat sweets that much. When I do, I've found a little taste is usually enough to satiate me. But even when it's not and I accidentally eat too many brownies or drink too much soda, that's not what really bugs me.

What really bugs me is that last week I made myself an awesome sandwich, with thin-sliced turkey and smoked provolone (any cheese other than Kraft American singles is such a rarity in this house that this was truly a delight). I knew there was just a bit of good cheese in the house and I'd been looking forward to it, to a degree I hate to admit. Imagine, then, my disappointment when the sandwich tasted kinda weird.

Not really weird. Just slightly off somehow. I couldn't figure it out. Then, when the sandwich was almost gone, I realized: the damn bread tasted sweet.

It shouldn't have taken me anywhere near that long to think of that; the sweetness of USian bread is among Andrew's favorite, or at least most common, complaints about my native land. "It's not just sweet," he says, "it's SWEET!" I've learned not to stand too close to him when he starts talking about this, because if I am, I tend to involuntary wince at the volume and the screechiness of his voice, a quality so poorly reproduced by mere text size or thickness. Such is his adamance about the sweetness of our bread.

I think the only reason I didn't think of this earlier, then, is that I didn't really notice the bread tasting sweet the last time I came back to the US. I did notice it once when I was gone, that first time: not too far into my trip, Andrew had given me the choice of dinner from a chippy or from Subway, and, for reasons of homesickness or nostalgia more than anything else, I chose the latter. I took a big bite out of my sandwich and made a face; it was so sweet!2

The culprit, of course, is high fructose corn syrup.

High fructose corn syrup is, as the name suggests, a modified form of corn syrup that has an increased level of fructose. Because fructose is much sweeter than glucose, the syrup is sweeter and it becomes a useful substitute for sugar in processed food. In many areas, it is less expensive than sucrose (table sugar) due to agricultural policy: The United States subsidizes corn syrup production while taxing sugar imports. Fructose is also more desirable than glucose as it increases in solubility at low temperatures, so more can be concentrated per unit weight. Its liquid form keeps foods moist and prevents them from quickly spoiling.

This is how it ends up in stuff where it doesn't belong, like bread. It's easy and cheap to put corn syrup in food rather than actual, y'know, ingredients. It shows up in all kinds of random stuff, too, like ketchup and the sauces they use at Subway. And it really, really annoys me.

I was making toast a few mornings later (I have a theory (no! hypothesis!) that it tastes less sweet when it's toasted) and, just because I'm a masochist, I spent the time while the bread was toasting looking at the list of ingredients on the bread wrapper. I think high fructose corn syrup came right after wheat flour and water. I scowled. Then, for extra fun, I picked up the jar of peanut butter I was going to use on the toast. It said "Peanuts, sugar" and then I stopped reading and scowled again. I wasn't eating peanut butter toast: I was eating candy!

I don't mind eating candy. I just like being aware of when I'm doing it, and having a choice about it. And I don't like being betrayed by my food, anyway. The peanut butter toast is trying to trick me! If I want something sweet I'd rather have a brownie than toast!

1 Cookies and bars must be stored in the freezer in this house. I used to complain about this, but the best answer I ever got out of her was "They get dried out if they just sit around too long otherwise." Yet in the next breath she'll be complaining that we eat everything so quickly it forces her to bake a few times a week. I could go on, but the world does not really need more proof of my mom's weirdness.

2 I think this was also due to the amount of sauce on there; they just pile that stuff on unless (or even sometimes if) you specifically ask them to use only a little. I like a little moisture in my sandwich, but I don't want to take a bath in it. It also doesn't help, of course, that Subway sucks. I'd forgotten because it was the most palatable thing in Morris, but until that point I'd never eaten at Subway, and now I remember why.


Sep. 18th, 2005 05:21 pm
hollymath: (holly)
On Wednesday [livejournal.com profile] demiurgician, [livejournal.com profile] slemslempike and I were walking back from Lidl and they ended up trying to guess my middle name. This amused me especially because I told [livejournal.com profile] demiurgician my middle name not long ago, but she couldn't remember it.

What's it start with? they asked. M, I said.

"Marie!" someone said immediately.

"Nope!" I smiled. I like being able to do that. It's fun not being obvious. This is the point at which most people are stumped, but these two are pretty smart; they had only just begun.

Mary, Maria, and Mariah were all soon tried, and all shot down. Missy and Maureen were vain attempts. When [livejournal.com profile] demiurgician tried Myra I got to say "She already said that!" I was impressed at their ingenuity. I was also sure that they'd get sick of the game before I did. But luckily they didn't, and instead persisted through Margaret and Madeline to Milificent and Michaela.

Then things just got silly. After a few minutes of just walking along saying "Mmmmm..." toughtfully and seeing what sounded good after it, [livejournal.com profile] slemslempike said "Molly!" (which [livejournal.com profile] demiurgician quite liked; she said she's going to start calling me Holly Molly) and "Montana!" That's my favorite; I want to be Holly Montana.


hollymath: (Default)

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