Things I think about in the shower - 2 - Climate change & Mars

When I was a kid I really wanted to be an astronaut and in those days, according to my dad (no internet to check in those days), I should first join the Air Force.  My mother, who had decided before my birth that I would be a doctor, told me I was too tall to be in the Air Force.  Again, no internet, so I took her word for it.

The point is that I really think the idea of colonizing the moon or Mars is an awesome idea. There's no arguing that our space program has brought a spectacular number of new inventions and other benefits to our race.  And I loved the Red Earth - Blue Earth- Green Earth Kim Stanley Robinson trilogy, are you kidding me?  Awesome.

But all I hear about on the news is about how current climate change will turn the planet into a fiery lava storm in the next 50 years (okay, I've only read the destruction of planet Earth scenario in a few particularly bonkers websites; at worst it would be an extinction event, one that would likely be survived only by cockroaches and Wonder Bread).  So why is the message: "We need to colonize Mars because Earth will be uninhabitable soon" instead of, "Hey guys, let's fix Earth!"

Shower thought:  Let's use the mars money to cool the earth

I realize most efforts are rightly spent now on prevention of man-made climate change (although according to Hank Green even if we all drop dead today the planet is still going to warm up according to ocean bottom sampling), why not work on a solution too?  I've seen a few space-related ideas about cooling the planet like putting up webs in orbit to block some sun or encouraging plant growth to suck up carbon dioxide. 

The main complaint about curative methods is they are expensive.  But isn't terraforming Mars going to be expensive? 

Maybe it's all because I am a mom:  "Sorry, kid, but you can't go have fun on Mars until you've cleaned up your room."

PS:  Here's an interesting graph (link) I found about the cyclic change of planetary temperature according to ice core samples.  So if modern human Adam and Eve were born around 150-200,000 years ago, and the oldest hand cave paintings were 40,000 years ago, YAY HUMANS for surviving the super low temperatures. Go Team Caveman!

Norwegian Word of the Day:  fartsgrensen  (Translation: speed limit) Exercise:  Use "fartsgrensen" in a sentence.  (For eksempel:  Fartsgrensen er tretti miles per time)

Things I think about in the shower

Like many people, I do my best thinking in the shower.  Sadly, the things I think about are usually pretty goofy.  

Shower Thought:  Surely the term "Middle East" doesn't really make sense unless you live 1/4 of the way around the planet to the west?  

The website suggests this portion of the world is the MIddle East (evidently what constitutes the MIddle East is disputed).  So it looks to me like Iraq is about the center.

So this looked like a latitude/longitude problem.  I can never remember latitude v. longitude (which I expect would infuriate my geography expert extraordinaire sister Molly) but I found the public domain image at right that explains the difference.

Okay. So Google says the middle of Iraq is about 33 o N by 43.5 o E.

So Baghdad is 44.3 o E. I grabbed a blank image off and did a quick photoshop to add the numbers. Since right angles are 90o, then perpendicular to Baghdad is 45.7oW. The only named place at around 45oW I could find in this northern hemisphere map is a place called Nunataaq, Greenland.

(Fun fact: according to the Italian Wikipedia, Nunataaq is a village with 2 inhabitants as of 2005. I feel rather nervous that the latest data is from 2005. What's happened in the 12 years in between? Did the two inhabitants go on a quest northward only to freeze in the ice, never to be heard from again?)

How I spent my summer vacation:  Well.  That's an hour spent coloring and labeling this image that I will never get back.

How I spent my summer vacation:  Well.  That's an hour spent coloring and labeling this image that I will never get back.

In conclusion, if you stand in Greenland (or in the eastern portion of Brazil in the Southern Hemisphere), then it would be correct to describe the Middle East as the "Middle East".  Otherwise you are just confusing our alien watcher overlords on the moon.


The sad part about all of this, of course, is that you would have no one with which to discuss the Middle East in Nunataaq, Greenland, because presumably everyone there has been eaten by polar bears.  

Today's Norwegian phrase of the day: "for eksempel"

Exercise: Use "for eksempel" in a conversation. Slang is okay to use.

*Example: "Jeg elsker katter. For eksempel, jeg elsker min lille katt Kishi."

Translation: * "I love cats. For example, I love my little cat Kishi."

See one, do one, teach one

(I'm writing thi at 4 am after waking up from a nightmare where I couldn't find my car in a parking structure; the humanity!  I'm guessing it won't seem nearly as deep or witty upon review tomorrow.)


In med school we learned most procedures by seeing one performed.  Then we did one under the guidance of an attending physician, and then, as an intern, resident, fellow or physician, we taught it to the next person, hopefully with a more experienced person on the sidelines, but sometimes not.  (Obviously with the rarer procedures getting a chance to do or teach one was rarer as well.) The benefit here is that you pay a LOT more attention when learning and doing, because you know it will be just plain you at some point.  To be fair, in medical training the goal is to see a lot & do a lot before ever having to teach, but sometimes... youdowhatyougottado.

I find I never, ever learn anything as well as when I have to teach it to another person.

Some random things I have seen, done and subsequently taught, in no particular order:

Tie a shoelace. Open and close a surgical case.  Place a suture. Repair a retinal detachment. Paint walls and trim (latex paint). Laser the retina, the iris or an opacified posterior lens capsule. Play a simple tune on piano. Ovariectomize a prairie vole.  Insert a foley catheter. Sew on a button. Take blood pressure. Refract (Better 1 or 2?  3 or 4?) Take/write a history and physical.  Pronounce a person dead. Give a (good) lecture.  Be compassionate to a crying patient (tissue box maneuver).  Drive a car. Cataract surgery. Use a condom (taught to classrooms of avid high schoolers). Glaze a ceramic piece. Use a microscope. Put in an eye drop. Stoichiometry.  Perform surgery on a patient with no anesthetic (I can explain).  Parallel park. Remove a retinal membrane.  Write an exam.  Fit a contact lens. Draw blood.  Use the F-stop on a camera.  Put on a musical! Play guitar. Perform ultrasound on an eye/orbit. And this week: Paint a RPG miniature.  

Things I've seen and done, but didn't/haven't had the chance to teach (yet), and therefore my proficiency is (even more) suspect:

Frame, drywall & patch an interior house wall.  Do a spinal tap. Plant annuals in the yard. Have a baby.  Deliver other people's babies. Make a stoneware teapot. Mix down musical tracks. Perform CPR chest compressions on a human. Give patients bad news.  Plastic surgery. Ride a horse. Swim (poorly). Perform musical burlesque numbers onstage at both scifi and preeminent medical conventions (I have a lot of tips on this).  Make faux stained window inserts. Sew a costume.  Perform enucleations (surgically remove eyeballs).  

...I should do some YouTube videos on some of these so I can cement my understanding. I'm going to do that. 


Today's homework:  Use the phrase "For Pete's Sake!" in a conversation.

Vocabulary word of the day: ovariectomize





I know I shouldn't, but I like my avatars to be pretty to look at

Am I a bad person because I think all the Mass Effect characters are so homely (including my own that I couldn't customize to anything even approaching the golden ratio) that I'm not interested in playing the game any more? Hmmm... No. No I'm not a bad person. And I want my money back.


I'd seriously rather lie here in bed at 3 am writing an essay about Mass Effect Ai than play the actual game. I get the idea that, practically and scientifically speaking, it makes sense that the average person is average looking in the future. A scifi purist might want to see that.


Just a voice in your head.  Image by Linnea Boyev

Just a voice in your head.  Image by Linnea Boyev

But the draw for me with Bioware and RPGs in general are the romance options. (Be still my heart, Carth Onasi, who had barely more pixels than a Minecraft toon but was still hot.) I haven't finished Halo 5 because I'm afraid the Cortana-117 romance will be over and then why bother saving the galaxy at all? If they can't be together than let the Flood eat everyone; I don't care anymore.


Anyway.... every time there's a conversation scene in Mass Effect Ai I blurt out "Gah!" and then the next person talks and "Gah!" As for my weird toon I can keep on my helmet most of the time but she keeps taking it off in cutscenes and "Gah!" I even tried to make her look like Default FemShepard but she just looks... weird.


And come on I don't need physical realism in my $100 videogame! I can look at an AVERAGE person's face every day in the mirror for FREE. If I leave the house there are average people LITERALLY everywhere.  By definition.


I don't need physical realism in a romance game anyway, because it isn't real. In real life, I become attracted to a person if I can relax and laugh with them and I can laugh with them; it usually comes down to one moment of me noticing a guy is incredibly competent at some task for me to get hooked. That takes a LOT of time. If I'm going to devote 50+ hours to slog through a game shooting the same mobs over and over so I can spend a total of 20 minutes to romance a fictional character with a few dozen total lines of dialogue then he or she should at LEAST meet basic international and cross-cultural standards of beauty (see golden ratio) to fulfill the fantasy.


There were surely SOME trained artists working on the game; the environments are gorgeously designed. And come on, there are more girl gamers these days but surely MOST people who buy these sorts of games are still men. Men like pretty, vaguely symmetrical faces without gross exophthalmia, don't they? I've been counting on the shallowness of men (no offense) to keep videogame characters looking ridiculously sexy. Sigh. It's all just so disappointing.


I'd seriously rather they just stylize the humans in the game to look like the characters in "Star Wars Rebels" or even "Max Steel" or even... gulp... anime "RWBY"... than be forced to suspend disbelief about weird puffy people with strangely low foreheads, bulging eyes, zits and odd silicone hair that moves as a solid sheet.


Bioware managed to make Garrus's face sexy in the old Mass Effects, and he was a shaggy, scarred lizard man. Golden ratio, people.  


Today's Medical Vocabulary Word: exophthalmia
  Pronounced: (ex-off-thal-mee-yah).
   (definition: bulging eyes)
Exercise: Use "exophthalmia" in a sentence:
Example: Homer Simpson has exophthalmia, possibly related to Grave's disease.

Why I've given up arguing on facebook: Cognitive Dissonance

Years ago, my cousin Jack the Lawyer (he's now a judge) wrote an essay that had a profound impact on my life. In it he pointed out the cognitive dissonance implicit in the two party stances on the issue of abortion. That's when I first started noticing that issues on party platforms often don't make logical sense when taken together.

For example, to paraphrase Jack:

If a person states they are against abortion for any reason because that person believes:
  1. human life begains at birth and
  2. humans do not have the ethical right to take another life.

Then it follows logically that the aforementioned person must also be against:
  1. the death penalty for any reason and
  2. euthanasia for any reason


After long reflection, I amended this a bit because for this argument to be valid the person in question must also categorically believe that human life begins at conception, rather than at the current limit of viability outside the womb, which as far as I know is 21 weeks and 5 days.

Please note:  I have ZERO interest in getting into a religious, ethical or scientific argument about abortion with anyone, anywhere, (although I can argue all day against state-sponsored euthanasia and the death penalty).

I just agree with Jack that most folks aren’t being honest with themselves about what they really believe, or at the very least, haven't put much thought into it.

Since that time I’ve noticed cognitive dissonance on many issues. For instance:

Premise: If we decide to use the most up-to-date science to determine our stances, then we must therefore also:

1. agree that evidence shows the average planetary temperature is rising, and

2. agree that GMOs are safe to eat and they reduce our reliance on pesticides, and

3. believe the overwhelming evidence that the benefits of vaccinations grossly outweigh the risks.


Premise: If you believe we do not have the ethical right to use animals as experimental subjects then you must also therefore believe we do not have the right to eat them… or keep them as pets… or spay and neuter them…


...and so forth.

One can argue the above premises here ad nauseum; logic and ethics are fascinating subjects because the premises are the toughest things to agree on.

Human beings are emotional creatures; we all have biases based on our life experience and upbringing. I don’t think it is possible for us to function as purely logical creatures, and I wouldn’t want to live in a world where we did.

I've given up trying to mediate between my left- and right-wing friends and family, as both sides are filled with so much rage they can't listen.  I've tried saying, "Hey. When you have a free moment, in the shower or car, start looking for cognitive dissonance in the party platform you are opposed to. Political parties exist to win votes, not make logical sense. Figure out how various stances you find contemptible in the opposition don’t make sense when put together. I strongly suspect that exercise will expose some of your own biases. Which I fully support your right to have. It's just good practice to know thyself."

The recent Planned Parenthood defunding news brought all this up to my own mind. I absolutely and totally understand at a logical and emotional level the viewpoints of BOTH major camps on this issue (although I think Planned Parenthood was doing its much-needed job).  I certainly don’t know an answer that either side will be able to feel good about. I only know that until science fixes the abortion issue (by either discovering a way to safely remove and store developing fetuses or by figuring out how to grow a human from blastocyst to baby outside the womb), the topic will always be intrinsically tragic to everyone.

Phrase of the Day: cognitive dissonance
  Pronounced: (cogg-nih-tihv-diss-oh-nanss).
   (Definition: Simultaneously having contradictory or otherwise incompatible beliefs )
Exercise: Use "cognitive dissonance" in a sentence:
Example: When my cousin Jack (then a law student) told me that only poor people work long hours, and successful professionals worked very few hours, but moments later complained that he didn't want to be a successful attorney because that would entail working ridiculously long hours, he was displaying cognitive dissonance.
Although I don't agree with all their views, I love both kitties!  I can only hope to help them understand their opponents point-of-view in a supportive and loving way.  

Although I don't agree with all their views, I love both kitties!  I can only hope to help them understand their opponents point-of-view in a supportive and loving way.  

SWF seeks old nerds

So you know that old yarn, “When I was a kid, we had a stick and a rock to play with, and that’s the way we liked it.  Now get off my lawn!”  Well, it’s kind of true.

When I was fifteen (around 1979 - I know, shut up), I played Dungeons and Dragons with some of my ultra nerdy classmates.  Our DM (Dungeon Master) was a Vietnam Vet who was a bit older than the rest of us.  And yeah,  the DM title sounds really dodgy in modern parlance, but the DM is just the person who invents the setting for the game and makes sure everyone has fun.  Most DMs nowadays call themselves GMs (Game Masters) to avoid confusion with the kinky stuff.  

In the 1970s, we played with pencil and paper and dice (no calculators, mobile phones or ebooks back then).  One of the other teen players was the first boy I ever kissed (if you don't count 2nd grade).    The games lasted into the early morning, and after every game we'd all go to an all-night Big Boy diner and get milkshakes and french fries.  We were total nerds and it was awesome.

Around 2005-ish, my ten-year-old son  told me he’d heard about D & D.  I was psyched!  I found a gaming store and bought a bunch of D and D minis and bought a D & D 3.5 book and ran a one shot for my son.  I thought it was a lot of fun.  He began playing with friends.

I liked the orc character so much I think our characters should shoot a pilot.

I liked the orc character so much I think our characters should shoot a pilot.

This year for my birthday I asked my son (now aged 22) to run a one-shot campaign for me, for old time's sake.  So yesterday he drove over with two gaming friends, set up a Pathfinder game, set up Skype so we could play with another gaming friend currently in Dallas, and ran a one-shot.  It was utterly hilarious and tremendous fun.  My sides hurt today from the laughing workout.

I spent a long time rolling a level 3 character in the Pathfinder system: a woman called Gunnar who was basically a young Viking with two pet rats, a fishing kit and an unreasonable fear of snakes.  (Because Gunnar and snakes as in Norse Mythology/Sagas, right?  Of course right.)

When your new roommate shoots ballista bolts without even looking. 

When your new roommate shoots ballista bolts without even looking. 

The plot of the story was basically that the players were prisoners in a mysterious castle; we break out and discover the castle is sitting on top of a mine that is being fought over by orcs, dastardly humans and faceless gruesome demon creatures and we’re caught in the middle. Just a typical day.  The fellow prisoners were: 1. an incredibly stupid, easily angered orc who needed pants  2) a two-headed twelve-foot ogre with two heads (one wizard and one barbarian), and 3) an evil gnome living in a pocket dimension inside a mailbox, where he kept slaves to help him raise swarms of war weasels.  And he had a ballista that could fire out the door of the mailbox.  And the mailbox was sitting on the shoulder of the giant two-headed ogre… and…  so… yeah…  

Pocket dimension filled with weasels and evil gnome.

Pocket dimension filled with weasels and evil gnome.

…this is the problem with trying to describe a tabletop role-playing game to RPG civilians…  it sounds completely ridiculous and approaches the yawn-inducing tedium of “I had the weirdest dream last night…”

Ultimately the real pleasure of D&D and similar games is the opportunity to just “play” the way you could as a kid.  If the idea of "play" makes you uncomfortable, think of it as improvisational theater where you don’t have to be funny.  (Take an acting class;  improv is tough!)  But there are enough rules to help you if you get stuck for ideas.  And the encounter is run by a stage director, (the GM) and if she’s good, she’ll help you get through any rough spots while throwing you opportunities for something interesting..

With entertainment like Game of Thrones and Iron Man, nerd fantasy, sci-fi and comic book culture has finally become cool.  And although I really enjoy video games, it really warms my heart that people are starting to play tabletop games again.  With pencils and paper and dice.  And discussion.  And laughing. 

Now I’m eager to play again, although not with my son and his friends.  They’re all terrific, but I don’t want to play with kids.   I need to find nerds my own age to fight dragons.  Because the kids with their rock and roll.

I drew the sketches shown during and after the game last night depicting some of the hilarious action and non-game-related jokes that came up.  Yeah, they seem like the work of a madman.  But that's why it's fun.

 Now get off my lawn!  


Evidently the GMs plans were sent awry by dynamite and weasels.  I could never be a GM; I'm too fond of controlling the situation.  My son claims the unpredictability of the players' actions are what makes it so fun to run a game.  Fine with me!  I'll just show up and enjoy the ride!  

Evidently the GMs plans were sent awry by dynamite and weasels.  I could never be a GM; I'm too fond of controlling the situation.  My son claims the unpredictability of the players' actions are what makes it so fun to run a game.  Fine with me!  I'll just show up and enjoy the ride!  

Today's Norwegian Vocabulary Word: drage
  Pronounced: (drah-geh).
   (Translation: dragon)
Exercise: Use "hjernekirurg" in a sentence:
Example: Jeg vil ikke spise en drage
   (I do not want to eat a dragon)

Why I don't wear sandals.

I wish they still had those sanitariums like they had in Victorian times that were somewhere remote with a lot of gardens and the people sit quietly in wicker chairs and everyone speaks in hushed tones and anyone who makes trouble is given LOTS of barbiturates. Do they still have those?

An no, spas don't count because they force you to make a choice about what services you want. When I relax, I don't want to make any choices. (This is why cruise ships are so popular.  No choices.  Just eat and drink and they'll tell you what to do for fun).  Besides, at a spa, there's all that social stress.  This is why I don't like going to get my nails done.

I mean, you have to chat amiably with the lady doing your feet because you are ridden with guilt that another adult person is painting your toenails which is a ridiculous thing for another person to have to do for you unless you are paralyzed, and then the lady is invariably a recent immigrant who was a brain surgeon in her home country and she has to do manicures and pedicures until she can get certified in the US and she looks at you angrily the whole time and speaks in her native language to the recently immigrated tax attorney next to her, also doing a manicure, and they laugh while looking at their customers because they're both really cross about how it was so much more fulfilling to do brain surgery and tax law than to listen to you yammer about your favorite nail polish and so then you feel you have to leave a particularly large tip because you feel so bad for the brain surgeon even though she actually did sort of a shitty job and you also ran out before your nails were dry because of all the dirty looks and guilt and besides, you are an adult and should be painting your own stupid toes and no one is looking at your toes anyway so getting a pedicure was totally pointless and you should instead donate that money to buy chickens for some poor bastard in Peru and so you definitely deserve to have a crappy pedicure and stay up the rest of the night eating ice cream out of the container because you feel so ashamed.

Right? Of course right.  Anyway:  sanitarium

Today's Norwegian Vocabulary Word: hjernekirurg
  Pronounced: (yarn-ih-cheer-oolg).
   (Translation: brain surgeon)
Exercise: Use "hjernekirurg" in a sentence:
Example: Men hva vet jeg? Jer er bare en hjernekirurg!
   (But what do I know, I'm only a brain surgeon!)