Sunday, February 26, 2017

Three states of matter that matter—part one

As every schoolchild knows, there are five known states of matter, but only three good ones—liquid, solid and gas. The other two are only found in labs or in your older versions of Trivial Pursuit. Of these top three, there are subcategories, and it is to one of these that I turn my lack of scientific knowledge today: liquids. Each of these makes the argument: "People will totally buy stuff if 'liquid' is in the title":

Liquid smoke. I got a hankering for a hickory burger recently, and remembered that in the past century some dude had invented a way to make smoke drip into a bottle. Liquifying ash particulates for the betterment of lunch is one of several things which makes me proud to be human. Also Old Spice.

Liquid paper. This is basically paint for your reports, but call it "paper paint" and you don't even sell 10 units. Liquid paper makes it sound like you somehow made paper drip into a bottle, and people love to be awed. The fact that it is simply chemicals roughly the same shade of paper does not awe. Whoever came up with the name does.

Liquid courage. This one is found most often in wartime trenches and at high school dances. There are some challenges which cannot be dared unless slightly lubed. These include advancing during a mortar barrage and trying to de-wallflower Julie Robinson.

Liquid glass. (Not to be confused with "water glass.") This stuff you swab on the front of your phone and it forms an invisible, protective shield against your gullibility in falling for stuff advertised on YouTube ever again.

Liquid bandage. Ever cut your finger only to discover you are out of bandages? Well, technically you have bandages, but they are those little dots, the ones you haven't used since high school when you tried to pretend you cut yourself shaving but everybody knew you were just covering up zits. Liquid bandage coats and protects your cut just like a normal bandage, except here you wave your hand in the air to dry it and a droplet flies off and lands in your dog's eye, and the vet bill is $240.

Liquid electrical tape. The ads say just dab some on that fraying cord for a waterproof, protective, "dielectric" seal. Personally, when dealing with high voltage, "dielectric" is the last word I want to see.

Next week: Gases; noble/inert, silent/deadly.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Scientists find elusive 'trolling' gene in mice

After years of searching, scientists at Sierra Madre City College have managed to isolate a gene in mice which may predict which ones will become trolls on social media.

"We think this has applications in humans as well," said genetics professor Bill Datwall, "since humans can actually depress the keys on a keyboard."

In the study, mice were shown photos of politicians, then offered a piece of cheese. The mice which ate the cheese and went to sleep were deemed "normal." Those which exhibited what scientists call a "barf response" were isolated for further study.

They were then shown political tweets by random Americans, and the mice which began tossing their tiny food at the screen had their blood drawn for DNA analysis.

Researchers also took blood samples from Twitter users who described themselves as "patriotic," "passionate" and "unswayed by facts." While mouse and human DNA cannot be directly compared, there was a visual similarity in the readout which scientists called "striking."

On the human DNA chart, said one researcher, "It looked like a tiny dude in a flag bandana flipping the bird." In the mouse readout, "Same dude, only smaller and furrier."

This research is part of a wider study which includes such recent white papers as "Are dolphins jerks?" and "If you give an tapir a Tumblr." Findings strongly suggest that messing with people is not just something that people do.

"Your dog is probably trolling you all day," says pet psychologist/florist Jim Entusiast. "He just doesn't have the opposable thumbs to get himself in trouble on Instagram."

There may come a day when the trolling gene is not only identifiable but removable before birth. Parents may have to decide whether it is a desired or repulsive trait. They might conclude they want a child who is blonde, athletic and, when grown, a total pukestorm in comments sections everywhere.

Or they might decide to remove that gene, along with skin that burns too easily and an inclination toward death metal.

Of course, it may turn out that people who post horrifically hateful tweets or comments are not genetically predisposed. They might just be acting out of their own fear or pain. Having empathy toward someone who wishes you a fiery death, preferably after you endure a lengthy sexual assault by rabid yaks, takes character.

Or you could, you know, just go offline and maybe crack a book now and then.

. . .


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wednesday Wa Pic - Put your trust in medical phonetics

Now I know who I will call the next time I have an emerjin-z.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

To boycott or not to boycott—that is the question

One of the hardest things about living in 21st Century America is knowing who to boycott. Boycotting is an important pastime in our country, right up there with tailgating and disdaining soccer.

The trouble is, sometimes to be moral you have to boycott your favorite stores, and that's not going to happen, so then you feel guilty, but you don't tell anybody, because all of your friends are dutifully boycotting them, or so they say.

Like race, friends do not chat about boycotts. If we did, I might let drop that I stopped buying Barilla pasta or eating at Chick-Fil-A because of their bigoted stance on gay rights. That could set me up for a beat-down by my more enlightened friends who know that those brands completely turned around their stances years ago, and then I look like some idiot who shops wrong, which is the worst.

I have been wearing New Balance shoes since my distance running days in the 1970s. Recently I heard that the brand is a favorite of white supremacists, based on a seemingly pro-Trump statement by one of the company's spokespeople.

Couldn't neo-Nazis have maybe given all this love to wearing Crocs instead? What says "white power" more than pushing a rubber shoe that's full of holes through a committee and into production?

Conservatives have a boycott list too, but it is a tough sell. Give up Oreos because Nabisco moved its factories to Mexico? Yeah right. What's next, giving up Pepsi? Actually, yes, because of its CEO's post-election comments.

Boycott Amazon, because its owner also owns the Washington Post, which did a story on the president's past? But then how am I going to get my Crocs by tomorrow as long as I order in the next 27 minutes?

Ben & Jerry's made the list too, for its support of the Black Lives Matter movement. If you look at the butterfat content of their goodies, you have to wonder if any lives really matter to those guys.

It gets funny when both right and left boycott the same company, as with Macy's; the left because Macy's sells Trump brand clothing, and the right because Macy's is going to discontinue selling Trump brand clothing.

To paraphrase Newton, for every boycott there is an equal and opposite boycott. And let's not even open up the whole eat-the-cookie-whole or twist-off-the-cookie-and-eat-the-creamy-filling-first debate.

Things could really get ugly.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Wednesday Wa Pic - never know

 I was gratified to see that my city is prepared for a sudden vampire uprising.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Some executive orders I'd like to see if I were in charge

These days presidents like to write executive orders a lot; the whole "easier to ask forgiveness than permission" gambit. Imagine if us non-presidents could do the same.

Waters' Executive Orders, in order of executivity:

1. Men and women will be paid the same for the same work, but the key to the Thermostat control box will be accessible only through straight-up graft.

2. People leaving their Christmas lights up all year round will be required to give out bottles of wine to neighborhood parents on Halloween.

3. Neckties will be abolished except for politicians, and will double as leashes.

4. All federal agencies currently best known by initials will be identified instead by Slurpee-esque flavors. The IRS, for example, will be known as Razzberry Roids, the CIA as Kiwi-booya!, etc.

5. Nothing but suffragettes' faces on all the money.

6. No prices on anything of any kind will end in any number other than 0.

7. People still writing checks in the supermarket line will be promptly put on a bus to somewhere warm but far away.

8. Yarn-bombing, the act of knitting yarn sweaters onto public statues, fire hydrants, etc., will be a mandatory skill for all fourth graders.

9. Every restaurant has to offer lasagna or pie. Ideally both.

10. People using the word "immigrants" in a sentence will be required to explain in detail what style of tipi their ancestors lived in.

11. Grilled onions. No exceptions.

12. All museums must involve dinosaurs.

13. The overused term "gaslighting" shall be struck from our lexicon, as well as the words "gas" and "lighting" just for good measure.

14. Annual evaluations at work will have to include a taco truck.

15. The locks in the Panama Canal will all be removed simultaneously "just to see happens."

16. Hash browns go to the top of the food pyramid.

17. Politicians telling easily-verifiable lies on Sunday morning talk shows will have their homes filled, floor to ceiling, with all those pennies we don't need any more.

18. If your cat kills a bird, society gets to super-glue a bumper sticker of its choice on the back of your car.

19. Every new update of a computer system/phone will come with a teenager.

20. Pregnant women whose bellies are rubbed by total strangers will be allowed by law to tie the offender's shoes together and toss them up on a power line.

Now all you've got to do is elect me to something.

. . .


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wednesday Wa Pic - When specialization gets out of hand

 But what happens after they sell it?