You Won’t go Blind from TV

tveyes

Infrequently Answered Question #53: Is TV bad for your eyes as my mother used to tell me?

A: Staring into bright lights can hurt your eyes, sure, but how bright is the light from a TV? Set your TV in front of a big window on a sunny day and compare. Not convinced? Turn off all the lights and see how much the TV lights up the room. Anyway, your eyes are pretty safe from TV, the danger is to your brain. But that’s from content not radiation.

As for what our moms say, I suspect they told us TV hurts our eyes just to get us out of the house. I mean, when my mom said it she didn’t add, “Go read a book.” She’d say, “Go outside and play.”

Filed 12/7/10

Weasel Words

weasel

Infrequently Answered Question #52: People talk of weaseling out of a promise and weasel words. What do weasels have to do with it?

A: Weaseling and weasel words are all about empty promises. In a contract or ad it’s the small print that gets you off the hook. Now the question is why blame this sort of deception on a weasel. It stems from the idea of weasels eating eggs where they poke a tiny hole and suck out the good bits leaving the shell intact. So the egg looks like a full egg even though it’s empty.

So, with weasel words you get a promise that seems like a promise only it’s an empty promise.

Filed 11/8/10

You Weigh the Same as the Earth Weighs

scale

Infrequently Answered Question #51: How much does the Earth weigh?

A: Believe it or not, the Earth weighs a mere 190 pounds. To me anyway. That’s because I weigh 190 pounds. You see, weight is relative to the gravity of where you do the weighing. On the moon I’d weigh much less, on Jupiter I’d weigh considerably more. My mass is the same at all times, only my weight changes.

Common calculations of the Earth’s weight are as if you took chunks of the planet and weighed them on a scale on the Earth’s surface, then added it all up. (Or if you weighed the Earth on a twin Earth. Though you’ll have a hard time finding such a planet, putting the Earth on it, and having a scale that wouldn’t be utterly crushed in the process.) If you did the weighing on the surface of the moon, the Earth would weigh a lot less. If you did it on the surface of Jupiter, it’d weigh a lot more.

On a bathroom scale on the Earth I weigh 190 pounds. So then, if the Earth were on me it would weigh 190 pounds. Here’s how you prove it: turn the bathroom scale upside down. Then the Earth is on the scale and the scale is on me. In which case the Earth weighs 190 pounds.

If you think about it, gravity is a pitifully feeble force. Here we have a humongous mass, which we call planet Earth, and all it can muster by way of gravity on you is a couple hundred pounds. Now, think of that the other way around. How much gravity in your puny body can you apply to the whole of the Earth? Well, a couple hundred pounds is all.

Filed 10/13/10

Mythical Origins of Urban Legends

urban1

Infrequently Answered Question #50: Where do urban legends come from?

A: As the name implies, they come from the urbs. These are found just above the suburbs and below the overurbs. Though the point of origin isn’t in the heart of the urbs, but in the urban fringe. Urban legends grow and spread best where the population and the people are densest.

These legends are just rumors that have gotten out of hand and taken on a life of their own. Scientists are at a loss as to how this happens exactly and there’s a great deal of debate about when this life begins. Some say at the moment of conception, others when it reaches the third person.

Anyway, this is how it more-or-less works. (Artist’s misconception)

urban2

Whatever the case, like rumors and juicy gossip, urban legends are very hard to kill as most are just too good to be untrue. And much too much fun not to repeat. Not even the real facts will stop an urban legend in its tracks. That they would is an urban legend. The only way to bring them to bay is to kill the messenger, but in most civilized (urbanized) places this is frowned upon.

Filed 9/8/10

Why Rain Drops in Drops

thor

Infrequently Answered Question #49: Why doesn’t water fall from clouds as mist? I mean, how can raindrops grow so large before falling when water is so much heavier than air? What’s holding them up until then?

A: This is one of the great unsolved mysteries of nature. Not that nature hasn’t solved it, after all it happens. Fact is, clouds and rain are well-known, but not well understood. At least not by me. Be that as it may, let me postulate my own hypothetical conjecture. Meaning make something up.

Raindrops don’t float, they drop, which is why they’re called raindrops. Before they drop they’re rainfloats. These float because they’re made of H2O, two bits of hydrogen, which are lighter than air, and one bit of oxygen, which is air. So of course it would float. The real mystery is why it ever drops.

Rainfloats turn into raindrops because rain clouds are electrical. Rainfloats have a positive charge and are repulsed by the earth which has a positive charge. The electrical activity in rainclouds turn the charge negative, transforming rainfloats into raindrops. Having the opposite charge they are drawn to the ground. So the raindrops drop becoming rainfall, though not raindroppings.

At this point you might be thinking this is a load of nonsense. Well, you’re right. Thor had red hair and a beard and Vikings didn’t sport helmets festooned with horns.

Filed 8/4/10

“Real” Questions and Real Answers

brain

Infrequently Answered Question #48: Are any of the questions in I.A.Q. for real?

A: The questions in I.A.Q. are indeed infrequently answered. They’re also infrequently asked. Though if the question is, have other people actually written in and asked these questions, I confess the answer is no.

All the same the questions are real, they take the proper form of questions as they contain the who, what, when, where, how and/or why as per usual in questions. They also end in a question mark which makes any statement a question. That makes them questions? That makes them questions. See? Si.

Anyway, if they weren’t real they wouldn’t show up on screen when you go to terry colon dot com. You’d have to be dreaming or hallucinating. How real are dreams and hallucinations? They’re real dreams and hallucinations.

But now I’m talking in circles and parsing the meaning of is and getting into the pointless topic of is reality real. You know, like wondering if we are all nothing but brains in vats experiencing the world only in the mind. Which I say is pointless because even if we were brains in vats the world that exists in our minds works just the same as if it were a physical reality. So it’s a difference which makes no difference which is no real difference.

Filed 6/29/10

The Four Elemental States

elements

Infrequently Answered Question #47: What’s with the medieval belief in four elements? How could they think fire was an element?

A: There is a tendency amongst some to be a bit smug toward past thoughts and ideas. You know, we’re modern and scientific and the silly ancients believed so much superstition, they just didn’t understand like we clever folks do today. But what if the misun­derstanding is on our part? We don’t understand what they understood because ideas and meanings were lost in transmission and translation over time.

Let’s examine the old idea of the four elements, the cosmos consisting of earth, water, air and fire. How silly, we think. Was it? Instead of the word ‘element’ what if we substitute the phrase ‘state of matter’ in its place. Now the ancient’s thinking aligns with current thinking of four states of matter: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma.

Now then, let’s replace the four old elements with a corresponding state of matter. Earth is solid, water is liquid, air is gas, fire is plasma. In this case the ancient concepts are the same as the modern concept. And they beat us to the punch by 2,500 years without any modern instruments.

Who looks like the clever ones now?

The ancients had the insight that fire and lightning represented an essentially different regime of matter than ordinary air. Furthermore, the great electrical pioneer Michael Faraday was aware the ancients were aware. As he said, “It was what the ancients believed, and it may be what a future race will realise.”

Filed 6/1/10

The First Occupation and Preoccupation

hooker

Infrequently Answered Question #46: Is prostitution really the world’s oldest profession? What’s second?

A: Hard to say. I seem to remember reading somewhere that male chimps will trade food for sex. Or you could say female chimps trade sex for food since we’re talking about hookers here and not johns.

Which might well mean prostitution is, if not the oldest, certainly one of the oldest professions. The second oldest profession is the punch line of jokes. This can be lawyers, politicians, priests, witch doctors, mercenaries, or whomever you’d like to insinuate is a whore.

Then again, perhaps tool-making was the first profession. Or spear making was the first and arms dealer was second. Or maybe hunting, farming, tanning, weaving, potting, or basketry. I mean, all those ancient johns had to make money somehow or other to pay the ancient hookers, right?

Filed 5/6/10

Short Shrift

shrift

Infrequently Answered Question #45: I’ve heard of giving short shrift, is there long shrift? What is shrift anyway?

A: Shrift is the act of confession. Also called shriving, though not by many people that I’ve ever heard. Then again I’m not Catholic, maybe it’s used in those circles.

Now then, if a father confessor is lax, inattentive, or generally lazy and not performing his full duty of hearing confessions, that’s giving short shrift. If the confessor tells the parishioner, “Can you wrap it up? I’ve got a tee time in an hour.” that’s giving short shrift. If a parishioner hears “Leave your confession at the sound of the beep.” that’s giving short shrift.

Filed 4/7/10

Some Modern “Art” Literally Is Crap

art_is

Infrequently Answered Question #44: I just returned from the Tate. How is feces in a can art?

A: We’ll let Andy Warhol field that one:

“Art is what you can get away with.”

We’ll let Robert Rauschenberg expand a bit on the hidden depths of modern art:

“What you see is what you see.”

Now you know what that can of feces was: crap. And finally, we let Salvador Dali expound on the inner workings of modern artistic genius:

“My motivation is pure. I do it for the money.”

Filed 3/23/10

Food to Squirrels, Junk to Us

critters

Infrequently Answered Question #43: What do squirrels eat when they can’t find acorns?

A: Pizza. At least I saw a squirrel on top of the garage eating a slice of cold pizza the other day. They also eat corn. Well, they ate all the corn I tried to grow in the back garden. They like eating out of bird feeders, too. So they must eat what birds eat.

I don’t know what the birds, mice, possums, and other suburban wildlife eat, but they get by as there’s plenty of critters hereabouts. Still, when I look out at the yard I don’t see much of anything I’d call food. But then, I’m not a squirrel and don’t eat raw acorns, which I think are poisonous to people. Which might explain why there’s no acorn granola. Maybe.

Of course, some wildlife eats our leftovers which we conveniently supply in easy-open plastic bags or garbage cans. Just the other night I surprised a possum having a snack in the garbage can. Or maybe it just surprised me. Hard to tell what a sluggish possum is feeling as they don’t react much one way or another. This one just sat there, playing possum. Though being an actual possum it wasn’t playing at it.

While I don’t recall ever seeing it firsthand, I suppose squirrels eat our trash, too. How else to explain the cold pizza.

Filed 3/7/10

Afraid of Fear

fear

Infrequently Answered Question #42: Why is, per FDR, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself? Sounds like circular logic to me.

A: Ask yourself, did folks in the early 30s have no reason to fear unemployment, bankruptcy, failing banks, deflation, the rise of Nazi Germany or the looming threat from militarist Japan? The quote sounds clever and pithy, might make a good bumper sticker or look swell emblazoned on a t-shirt, but does it hold up to scrutiny very well?

Sure, there is something in not getting carried away with irrational fear, which I gather is what he was getting at. But saying the only thing we have to fear is where he goes overboard. Perhaps he might have said, “Our biggest fear is fear itself.” With that I can get on board without going overboard.

Then again, he could have said, “Don’t fear fear.” Though interpreted another way, if fear is the only thing to be feared he might have said, “Fear fear.” Which sounds like the opposite of “Don’t fear fear” though it’s sort-of making the same point. Anyway, “fear fear” just sounds dumb. Though not as dumb as what he might have said…

“Don’t fear fear, fear fearing fear.”

That’s all I have on fearing fear, I fear.

Sorry.

Filed 2/11/10

UFOs Are UFOs

ufo

Infrequently Answered Question #41: Do you believe in UFOs?

A: No and yes. Which is the answer of an open-minded skeptic or a weasel. I’ll leave which for you to decide.

If the question is, do I think we are being visited by extraterrestrials from distant planets… seems highly unlikely considering the vast distances involved. Even at light speed the e.t.a. would give pause to the most intrepid explorer or avid tourist Marvin the Martian in a flying saucer. What with the lack of rest stops along the way you’d have to bring everything you’ll need for the trek, gas, food, change of underwear and so on. That’s one mighty big RV. So from highly unlikely I go to no.

The yes part of the answer is a quibble. UFO means unidentified flying object. So, whenever there’s a flying object that goes unidentified, it’s a UFO. I suppose this happens from time to time, and being uni­dentified it remains a UFO.

Filed 1/24/10

Take no Prisoners

Custer

Infrequently Answered Question #40: What’s the worst advice ever?

A: That question sounds like the setup for a joke involving some monumental failure like General Custer before the battle of the Little Bighorn. There’s even a monument to that monumental failure.

Rather than some specific bit of advice, perhaps the worst advice is a type you’ve likely gotten yourself one time or another. It’s when someone tells you after the fact what you should have done, or what you shouldn’t have done. Which, I suppose, would be good advice if you had the opportunity to do it over again, but is fairly worth­less if you don’t have a time machine.

Getting advice of this ilk is only somewhat less annoying than hearing “I told you so.” When examined, “you should have” pretty much amounts to little more than “I could have told you so.” Which leads to another old phrase, “adding insult to injury.”

All the same, for my money the worst advice might be, “you can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.” While this may have the ring of truth, I don’t see the benefit in attracting flies in the first place. When have you ever heard anyone complain “there’s not enough flies in here?”

Filed 1/5/10

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