Sunday, October 2, 2011

What Your Desktop Says About You

Desktop by Isabella~Yoda Cat by Adam Baron!/adam.baron

What your Desktop says about you would be a great title for a Cosmo article, right? But this isn’t Cosmo.  This is just me, wasting time until the Amazing Race.  There are lots of things I could/should be doing.  Some of them are spelled out pretty clearly on my desktop sticky notes.  But, instead, here I am, thinking about time travel again.  And about how all my son seems to do is play what the old timers call “video games” and also, about two stories this week which seem to indicate that it is I, not my son, who has no idea how to waste time wisely.

STORY NUMBER 1: Last week some Italian scientists, apparently bored with trying to cure world hunger, cancer, the global economic collapse, opened their desktops and started firing neutrinos at one another through a mountain.  Somewhere between torching each others eyebrows and triggering the security system they realized they had somehow, very possibly, invalidated Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.  Whoa. 

[More responsible versions of the story are here: Faster than the Speed of Light  and here: Fisix? We don't need no stinkin' Fisix!]

In theory, invalidating Einstein’s Theory of Relativity would open the door to time travel, since that theory asserts that the speed of light is the speed limit in the universe, and to exceed the speed of light might allow effects to outstrip their causes, very simply, things might happen out of sequence---and what is that but time travel?  My favorite quote from Science Friday this week was a caller who wanted to know--- if the scientists in Italy are correct, and the theory of relativity is no more, where are all the time travellers from the future?  (Not in Peoria dear caller…)

Of course they could be zipping around among us like so many Arnold Strines (of The Fermata) , playing all manner of practical jokes on us, which is possibly how my keys ended up in the freezer.  Very funny.

My pet theory is that time travel happens all the time and in fact, determines the unpredictability of life.  For example, if you were a time traveller and you went back to a week ago to not eat the cupcake that resulted in  that extra 2 + lbs today, not eating that cupcake, in theory, could start a butterfly-effect type cascade of events that would change the future you came from.

Although you might not end up on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, it could mean that your LBD would fit  so well that you would decide you could, after all, make that cocktail party at your boss's house where you might meet the man or woman of your dreams.  

So, in (my) theory, a time traveller would only be able to change the future once, since to do so would result in them never being able to return to where they started, and very possibly in their very extermination, if not from the world, possibly from the company payroll, depending on how strong the drinks were.  You can never go home again McFly! 

STORY NUMBER 2: Gamers cure Aids.  This was a story about the University of Washington’s Scientists who apparently have not learned to play as productively as the aforementioned Italian scientists.  They had been trying for a while to isolate the protein that causes AIDs in Rhesus monkeys.  However,since the protein can fold itself into many shapes and is too small to see with a microscope they could not give the computer enough cues to isolate and zap that protein as opposed to all the other useful proteins which they most definitely should not be zapping. 

Meanwhile, at the University’s Center for Game Science, (now there’s something you would be thrilled to see on your kid’s diploma after paying out 4 years @ $20,000 per annum), creative director Seth Cooper created a game called Foldit  in which gamers compete against each other to see who can fold proteins most accurately.  Somehow I do not see this game supplanting MW2 just yet.  Also, I can’t even fold towels accurately and I’m not sure I can spell origami let alone comprehend that folding in any context could lead to curing Aids. 

The gamers came up with an identifiable and useful fold in 10 days, using their creative intuition. 

Which brings me back to what your desktop says about you.  And unless it says you are well on your way to curing Aids or have created a time travel app, you should turn off the computer and go do something useful like pay bills or nag your kids.  Because,  you really have no idea how to waste time.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Birthday Gifts from Beyond

Dear Birthday Girl: (shown below)
Please be advised that your birthday recognition tribute has been postponed (read moved to a date beyond now) due to an ongoing filibuster in the Ferguson Family budget talks.
Apparently there is a budget SSPX0033crisis which cannot be cured by invoking the tri-party change tray or by re-aligning the 401 K's with lottery tickets. Even though your birthday is a regularly occurring event, much like the utility bill or the mortgage, there was a fatal lack of foresight in the Planning Committee which has led to the dismissal of its 16 year old chair.
“This is a shortfall,” according to the senior CFO, “that fully two thirds of the representative body of Fergusons failed to recognize and which will end MP3 downloads and visits to E-bay as we know them.
While birthday and music disbursements were still in committee, a smaller award for separate studies concerning the effects of global warming on the air conditioning deficit and the Arizona tea supply in the fridge, were approved by a slight majority. Also, between sessions, the members voted remotely to end the Starbucks monopoly in favor of the more economical McDonalds gourmet Arabica bean coffee contract. Said one member who did not wish to be named, “Their Black Ops Latte swayed members who found themselves staying awake far into the night with nothing to do but vote.”
Animated debates between junior members and interns about whether to ban sugar free vanilla syrup in mocha-chinos, on the basis that it is just too stupid to order anything that dumb in a fast food drive through, died in committee.
Said CFO Ferguson, “We expect a positive vote on the current proposed budget, including all birthday and mortgage allocations, by the 15th.”
In other news, my birthday recognition token from you has been received and voted the best birthday gift ever, though no one is sure what to do with the silver rat (?) (I am currently using it to test the IQ of co-workers and as a graphic reminder to the IT guys that they have not nearly completed their ongoing list of ways to bust up a keyboard).
The delicate Flamingo bookmark is exquisite, however,  since the last of the real books are gone and last year the family converted to a small sect of an orthodox all Kindle cult, the flamingo book mark is being worn as a hair fascinator. Very vintage fashion forward and edgy for someone who seems to be losing hair as fast as brain synapses. I see it as an "Homage to Borders" type statement that hardly anyone gets now,  and no one at all will get about ten minutes from now.
In another note, I think we should continue to develop your idea of Spamming from the Grave, and take it to Shark Tank for underwriting. They once funded a broom with a gum scraper on the end of it so I think we have a shot.
Regrettably, I haven't figured out how we make it pay since the currency of the newly dead is not on any currency converter widget that I can find. But that should not stop us from moving forward as perhaps, under the new Jobs Bill, with an emphasis on "bill," we can get a small business tax break / incentive now.
Until then, please try to have a tribute-free Happy Birthday!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Fruit in Vegetable Clothing and other Mysteries

A selection of Heirloom Tomatoes

“A book is a garden carried in the pocket.”
- Proverb, (Arabian or Chinese, depending on where you look)

I have a nightstand full of books. They are stacked precariously like the tea cups on the Mad Hatter’s tea table. It’s not that I don’t have bookshelves, but these are books that can’t be put away, not just yet. These are books I’m in the middle of, books I intend to read and books I have read and mean to put away, but just can’t. In the latter group is one by Barbara Kingsolver entitled Animal, Vegetable, Miracle . It is on my nightstand for a reason.

If there is anything that will put me to sleep faster than a non-fiction book, it is a non-fiction book about healthy eating. In fact, the only thing that will put me to sleep faster than either of those is a book about how we are all wrecking the earth one plastic cup at a time. “They” have a point, I explained very responsibly to my fourteen year old, as I tossed out the styrofoam dinner plates. If we aren’t careful, global warming will kill us all.

Or at least, I told him, it will kill you. Just before the asteroids hit. Or the sun implodes. Of course you won’t know about the sun imploding until about eight minutes after the earth is incinerated, but that is a whole other blog.

So Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has been on my nightstand for a couple of years, waiting for that one special after ten, where no amount of indie music filtering through the Nano or infomercials beaming into the bed can bring on the night.

A few weeks ago, restless and cranky, I picked up my secret-weapon-against-insomnia book and started turning the pages. I knew the minute I read the word “locavore," that I would be snoring loudly, long before Letterman's Top Ten.

Turns out Animal, Vegetable, Miracle not only did not put me to sleep, 12 fruit trees and a backyard garden later, it is still on my nightstand, this time right at the top of the rickety stack. Who knew tomatoes were fruit? (only thought of as vegetables because the Supreme Court ruled them a vegetable and therefore subject to tax back in the 1800’s). Who knew that your Thanksgiving turkey has been selectively bred into a bird unable to reproduce the way nature intended and to have a breast so heavy that it would be unable to stand even if it were to survive beyond the five month slaughtering point? Who knew that vegetables and fruits in the supermarket are genetically engineered, not for flavor, but first for resistance to disease, then for imperishability and lastly for good looks? Who knew that Kiwi’s have a season? Well they do, and unless you live in the tropics or New Zealand, they don’t have a season in your area. When you eat them you may as well imagine the 10 gallons of smoking, choking diesel it took to get each one to your table. Talk about your carbon footprints! I feel better about my plastic cups. Ok, not really.

But this isn’t a book about guilt and cocktail party killing lines. Kingsolver took on a personal challenge, just to see if it could be done. She and her family chronicled their attempt to eat locally for a year on produce and livestock they either raised and harvested or slaughtered themselves or that they could obtain from roughly 100 miles around them.

Should we all do that? Can we all do that? Can we eat what is in season and grown locally and not succumb to the Columbian banana in Chicago or the Chilean seedless grapes in Fort Lauderdale? Probably not. But if the president’s wife can plant a vegetable garden in the backyard of the White House, I can probably grow a tomato or two in my backyard, and that’s a start.

If nothing else, after reading Kingsolver’s book I decided I wanted to water something I can eat! And, if the trees and garden yield as much as I think they will, let’s hope that what ever I’m watering back there, the neighbors will want to eat too. Otherwise some of you will be getting packages of produce for Christmas. Just sayin…

Barbados Cherry like the one in my backyard now