A Saturday Crossword Puzzle

Published on Sunday, 07 May 2017
A small crossword puzzle.

This is an existentialist homage to the New York Times crossword puzzles typically offered Thursday through Saturday. The theme of this puzzle: "Franz Kafka". 

ACROSS

An Etymological Curiosity: The Shark

Published on Thursday, 25 February 2016

So I have come across an interesting word in English: "Shark." All the (highly reputable) etymological resources I have available to me say that the origin is unknown. Perhaps this isn’t such a mystery as they would claim. As sharks are not common in the North Sea or waters around the UK, the first recorded use of the word “shark” in English was that of adventurer John Hawkins displaying the carcass of one in London in 1565 after his journey to South America. Interestingly, the secondary meaning of the word, to indicate a swindler, appears in print as early as 1599.

Lithium Ion Rechargeable Battery Care

Published on Monday, 12 January 2015

After studying this issue over time I have compiled a list of dos and don'ts for maximizing the life and use of your lithium ion battery in your phone, tablet or laptop:

Proposed NPR Weekend Edition Sunday Puzzle

Published on Tuesday, 05 February 2013

Take the first and last names of two famous football players. Swap the second letter of each player's first and last name (i.e. Joe Namath would become Jae Nomath). Then swap the last letter of each player's first and last names with the last letter of the other player's first and last name. Now take the latin species name of a common songbird of the north eastern US. Add the middle three letters of the bird's species name to the last names of the football players. You should have a total of four words in two pairs. Select one of the name pairs and drop the other.

Gluten Free for the Holidays

Published on Friday, 21 December 2012

When people first think of gluten-free foods they think of dishes that would have gluten-based grain, but have had it substituted with epoxy or gypsum. Or they think of rice porridge with a raisin (maybe two). Or perhaps they think of some exotic dish that makes you choke because it is made of puree of okra with xanthan gum, adzuki beans and durian wrapped in oak leaves. (And stored under the deck for 3 weeks in August). Served on a nest of undercooked quinoa.

17 Sure-Fire Treatments for Strep Throat

Published on Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Each of these remedies offer a 99% guarantee that your strep throat will be gone within 5-7 days.

Ode to Allen Ginsberg

Published on Tuesday, 27 March 2012

America,
I don't cry for you.
I'm tired.
I have corns,
and the unbecoming putty is showing in the gloaming of the
streetlight understudy.
Your understudies!
Your streetlights!

America,

Ad ignorantiam ad nauseam

Published on Monday, 19 March 2012

There is a logical fallacy called the argumentum ad ignorantiam or the argument from ignorance. The essence of this fallacy is that because we don't know something to be definitively false, it must therefore be true. A good example relates to concern about the dangers of electromagnetic frequencies.

Suggestions to Microsoft for Windows 8

Published on Friday, 16 March 2012

(I originally posted this on Facebook for Windows 7, same rules apply) Microsoft is preparing to release their next version of Windows Operating system this fall. Given the insufficient number of versions available for Windows Vista, I thought I might make some suggestions for more configurations. Everyone loves choice, so we should have more choices! This is partly inspired by the new **Windows Basic edition which will purportedly restrict the number of apps one can run to 6 or something.

When diet and exercise aren't enough...

Published on Thursday, 16 February 2012

I think this is of the most cruelly deceptive phrases in modern advertising. Firstly, no one wants to change their diet. Secondly, exercise takes time and effort and, at least at first, is quite unpleasant. Taking a pill is ridiculously easy to do.  So essentially this advertising phrase applies to everyone with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, adult-onset diabetes or other "lifestyle-related" diseases for which there are profitable pharmaceuticals (or "alternative" treatments, for that matter). It should really be "when diet and exercise don't seem appealing...".

Hot Cocoa versus Hot Chocolate: Abomination vs. Life-Giving Tonic

Published on Monday, 02 January 2012

I detest all hot "cocoa" mixes that only require hot water. I was reading the ingredients of one such mix the other day. They are quite interesting: sugar, modified whey, non-fat dry talcum powder, essence of cocoa (observed), vermiculite, partially hydrogenated conceptual art, carriage bolts, and artificial limbs. The sugar-free variety came with an "FDA Drug Facts" sheet. These hot cocoa "treats" are convenient at church social hours and ski lodges where providing a percolator with hot water is much easier than having to provide hot milk.

Medicine that Works...

Published on Monday, 28 November 2011

I was at the drug store today to pick up some vitamin D. Living in the dark, cold north requires a bit of extra vitamin D. My levels are particularly low. The label said that any claims on the vitamins had not been evaluated by the FDA for efficacy in the treatment, prevention, or amelioration of any disease. Most of the vitamins on the shelf had doses that were ridiculously high. Being a relatively unregulated market, how does one determine whether the pills will do anything at all or worse, do something bad to you.

Regarding the Break-in at Ravenclaw

Published on Sunday, 02 October 2011

To the editors, Hogwarts Today Alumni Magazine I am surprised at the indignation going around about how students from Slitherin managed to "break into" Ravenclaw without having someone tell them the answer to the Ravenclaw riddle ("Dark Magic in Ravenclaw, Slitherin students fess up" Daily Prophet, 19 September 2011). 

No side effects—no effects!

Published on Monday, 26 September 2011

I saw a box of tablets at the coop check-out the other day. The "active ingredient" was at a level less than the equivalent of one molecule in Lake Superior. The box proudly proclaimed: "no side effects!" How amazing! A drug that treats exactly and only the ailment for which it was indicated. This means there is a drug out there that is more effective than the immune system itself.  When you have a cold much of the drowsy, low energy feeling you get is due to your immune system combatting the illness. The virus does not cause that feeling itself, your immune system does.

The Odds

Published on Friday, 16 September 2011

Consider this bit of trivia: the average salary of an actor is comparable to the average salary of an accountant; however, few if any accountants are unemployed in their line of work, but few make 6 figure incomes. Almost none make 7 figures. Compare this to actors.

I was going to write something...

Published on Friday, 16 September 2011

Oh, it seemed so clever, but as soon as I got my computer up and running, the thought fell right out of my head. So here's the query: do you know what it was?

Entrance Exams

Published on Wednesday, 10 August 2011

I wonder if entrance exams with their "one right answer" design tend to have a negative effect on academic research. Do they tend select for people who believe there is one right answer to any question?  Do people who prefer certainty over ambiguity do better on such exams? Much of the research at the academy is also based on winning grant money. What kind of effect on the quality of research might this have?

What makes you so certain?

Published on Wednesday, 10 August 2011

What makes you so certain? Are you sure you have controlled for your confirmation biases? Wouldn't it be wise to double-check just in case? How would you double-check for real if you are already so sure you are right? Consider reading On Being Certain by Robert A. Burton. Certainty is an emotional state whose emergence does not require perfect data.

Emergent Religion

Published on Monday, 18 July 2011

Consider a world where Christianity had died out shortly after the canonical Bible was ratified in the 3rd century. If someone were to find the Bible in 2011 and consider it sacred scripture, what would a faith based on that book be like? Would the values, priorities and worship practices be familiar to us?  Is Christianity defined by the Bible or is the Bible defined by Christianity? Or is it both. If so then is one more dominant than the other?

A response to a housemate inquiry

Published on Sunday, 03 October 2010

When we are advertising for new renters at our house we get some interesting submissions (happily we are at capacity right now). These messages are always from scammers, but responding to them has become a form of artistic expression for me. I am not exactly sure why anyone would ever buy into this. Of course,  greed and lust are pretty good intoxicants.... 

Hi Lisa,

Okay Okay, I can't help it: A pure capitalist solution to the insurance mandate

Published on Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Everyone who's known me from grade school on knows I am passionate about social justice and politics. I recently heard Missouri voters rejected the insurance mandate in the new federal health care act. Perhaps the mandate is unconstitutional, but if that is the case, the right-leaning Supreme Court will overturn it. This got me to thinking however, maybe ideological capitalism might be the solution after all, we'd just need to make some adjustments to some of our cultural values. 

So here goes: 

Freedom from Responsibility

Published on Monday, 22 March 2010

A recent letter to the editor in the Pioneer Press decried the proposed seatbelt law in Minnesota that would allow police to ticket someone solely on the grounds of not wearing a seatbelt as a grave assault on our liberty. The problem with this "freedom from restraint" is it doesn't take into account the responsibilities that come with freedom. 

A proposal for how to say the word "primer"

Published on Wednesday, 23 April 2008

English has stupid spelling rules. I say this as someone who has never had much trouble with spelling. What would be nice is if we made sure to honor those words that actually follow the basic rules. The most glaring example is primer. In the United States we prefer to say PRIM-mer. Perhaps this is the result of American feelings of inadequacy at being a rough and wild outpost of the British Empire some 200 years ago, so we thought PRIM-mer sounded more erudite. Well, despite their frequent mutilation of the language (i.e.