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February 7, 2007

There is no such thing as a good decision


Or a bad one.

You make a decision as best you can.

Then, you find out the result.

If the result is good, that's nice.

If the result is bad, that's a shame.

But the result has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of your decision.

To say, "I made the right decision," after the consequences, is silly.

And vice versa.

But there's more.

Many results which seem good at first turn out to be bad.

And vice versa.

Obviously, you're trying to get the best results every time you make a decision.

Which makes every decision the best one you're capable of at a given moment.

And, therefore, a good decision — no matter what the outcome.

On a related note, ever since I was a young boy listening to baseball games, I've been struck by the incorrect ordering of reality employed by announcers.

For example, a guy tries to steal second, and he's thrown out.

Then the batter hits a double.

The announcer says, too bad the runner tried to steal and was thrown out, because that double would have scored him easily from first.

Wrong. Completely wrong.

If the guy had not tried to steal but had stayed on first, the pitcher would not have thrown the same pitch the batter hit for the double.

For one thing, he'd have been pitching from a stretch, keeping an eye on the runner.

And the catcher's choice of pitch called might well have been different, as well as the pitch's location.

So it's much more likely than not that the batter would not have doubled to score the runner.

The fallacious assumption that events are somehow going to be the same regardless of intervening occurrences is at the heart of much of the misery we bring on ourselves and others.

To blame yourself, or someone else, for creating a bad outcome is to ignore the even worse outcomes that were avoided because of the bad one that did happen.

To cite an extreme example: people delayed on their way to the airport who miss a flight that later crashes.

You simply cannot know if an event is good or bad when it happens.

It is only afterward that you assign a value to it.

I offer nothing new here: William Shakespeare, four centuries ago in "Hamlet," put it far more succinctly: "There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so."

February 7, 2007 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Xerostomia (Dry Mouth)


Dry mouth is a very common condition, affecting about 20% of adults at any one time.

Usually due to a decrease in the amount of saliva in the mouth, it causes oral discomfort, dental decay, bad breath, impaired digestion and subsequent malnutrition, and can greatly reduce the quality of your life.

Over 1,800 drugs have dry mouth as a possible side effect. Such medications as antidepressants, cold and allergy remedies, and myriad others can, taken over a period of time, result in dry mouth.

The NIH has an very informative website about this condition.

Others supplement the NIH site with additional information and helpful advice.

The great majority of people with dry mouth do not need to see a doctor or a dentist.

They can do the following, and make things better for themselves:

1) Chew sugarless gum every waking moment. This really works. It's good exercise for your jaws, too.

2) Stay as hydrated as you can. If you're not micturating so much it annoys you, you're not drinking enough.

3) Use dental floss. The combination of a dry mouth — unavoidable while you sleep — and rotting food between your teeth is the equivalent of bone-dry mountain forests in fire season: guaranteed disaster.

4) Brusha brusha brusha like the good little girl or boy your mom said you were after you showed her your shiny teeth before bedtime. Ah, those were the days, eh?

February 7, 2007 at 03:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Skid Mark Brief Safe — Episode 2: "To add realistic smell, check out 'Doo Drops'"



Apparently, the creators of the formidable Skid Mark Brief Safe, featured here on January 19, 2007 in a groundbreaking post that reverberated — via boingboing.net and collegehumor.com — around the world, were not content to just sit back and let the cash roll on in.

From websites:

    Doo Drops — A Unique and Terrific Add-On!

    These "special ingredients" are just what you may need in some "special situations".

    Manufactured under contract by DSG Laboratories to fulfill the occasional unusual operational requirement of CIA and other federal agents, this product is now available for non-governmental sale.

    Doo Drops look and smell just like real diarrhea.

    Many useful applications, all of which will be left to your imagination.

    It's just like a tube of explosive diarrhea, except silent for stealth deployments.

    It comes in a handy dropper-top squeeze dispenser for rapid, realistic applications.



    Use only with utmost discretion.



Note: The price of the Skid Mark Brief Safe — in response to overwhelming worldwide demand as a result of all the virtual ink — has just dropped 70%.

Only my crack research team had the resources and time — and brain-dead collective disposition — to nose around the web long and deeply enough to ferret out this wonderful deal.


That's right: your very own Skid Mark Brief Safe can now be yours for the low, low price of $11.

Sure — you could make your own for nothing.

But do you really want to?

February 7, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Anxiety is interest paid on trouble before it is due' — William R. Inge


Internalizing the quotation above is the surest path to a good life.

Much easier said than done, alas.

But I've been trying ever since I read it — some twenty minutes ago.

What's keeping you?

February 7, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack



Here's a great website devoted to this pastime, which for many is more a passion or obsession than a mere hobby.

A good guidebook to bring along is "The Basic Railfan Book" (above), by Ernest H. Robi.

$27.95 from the author.

February 7, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Did you get it?


As with so many things,


once you know the answer,


it's as plain as the nose on her — I mean your — face.

February 7, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

HobbyPrincess.com — 'Notes on fashion, crafting, and technology'


Hey, three of my favorite things, should be right up my alley.

The site's creator, Helsinki native Ulla-Maaria Mutanen (above), started it because she thought "girls should get more active in defining where society and technology are going."


Her "Crafter's Manifesto" appeared in Volume 4 of MAKE magazine and is rich with suggestion and possibility.

From the document:

"The things that people have made themselves have magic powers. They have hidden meanings that other people can't see."

"People get satisfaction from being able to create things because they can see themselves in the objects they make. This is not possible with purchased products."

February 7, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BadVibes: What's the worst sound in the world?


Yesterday's Washington Post article by Jennifer Huget about why the sound — or even the thought — of fingernails on a blackboard makes us flinch focused on the recently released (January 24, 2007) results of a survey by Trevor Cox, a British acoustics professor at the University of Salford.

To conduct his research, Cox "established a "BadVibes" website (www.sound101.org) that invited people to rate the horribleness of 34 sounds, ranging from the squeak of Styrofoam... to the squeals of many babies."

Long story short: Over a million votes were cast and fingernails-on-a-blackboard came in 16th. Top honors went to the sound of someone vomiting.

Here's the story.

    Sounds That Grate

    If the mere mention of fingernails on a blackboard makes you flinch, you may want to skip this story. We'll be merely mentioning that a lot.

    Last week when President Bush explained his use of the term "Democrat Party" — without the Democrat-preferred "-ic" — in his State of the Union message, he said he hadn't intended to rile anyone up. "I didn't mean to be putting fingernails on the board," he told National Public Radio.

    In making his remarks, the president may not have recognized that he was dabbling in the field of psychoacoustics, the study of human response to audible stimuli. Pyschoacoustics has contributed to our understanding of music and is used in crafting optimal workplace conditions and all manner of other helpful endeavors. Yet it has shed precious little light on one of mankind's most enduring questions: Why do fingernails on the blackboard make so many of us cringe?

    Turns out few have even tried to find out.

    As it happens, the president's comment closely followed the Jan. 24 release of a British survey tallying results of a worldwide poll ranking the most awful of awful sounds. Trevor Cox, an acoustics professor at the University of Salford, established a "BadVibes" Web site (www.sound101.org) that invited people to rate the horribleness of 34 sounds, ranging from the squeak of Styrofoam (polystyrene, in the study) to the squeals of many babies. More than a million votes were cast and, in an upset, fingernails-on-the-blackboard came in a pathetic 16th place, inducing far less rancor than the top winner (loser?): the sound of someone vomiting.

    Cox surmises that we recoil from revolting-bodily-function sounds because we're hard-wired to retreat from situations — the spread of pathogens, for instance — that might make us sick. In the case of vomit, hearing the dulcet tones of another's retching might lead us to follow suit to rid our bodies of the same thing that made the other person sick.

    As for fingernails, Cox advances several theories. Scraping noises might bother us because we imagine how lousy it feels to perform the scrape-inducing activity — our own fingernails on the blackboard, our own Styrofoam rubbing against the cardboard box. "There's something fundamental about the sound," he says, "and I don't think it's just about teachers torturing kids." He guesses that there's something inherent in the fingernail-on-board scrape that gets under our skin and that "fingernails on a blackboard is just a common way to deliver that sound."

    The primary study on the matter, "Psychoacoustics of a Chilling Sound," appeared in 1986 in the journal Perception & Psychophysics. One of the authors, Randolph Blake, now a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, says the study happened almost by accident: The scientists set out to conduct a study of negative visual stimuli but found sound easier to work with than images.

    One of the study's findings: Contrary to what you might expect, it's not the higher-frequency components of the composite fingernails/blackboard sound that irk us. Eliminating those high-pitched tones and isolating the sound's midrange components created the most squirm-inducing sound among the dozen or two students and faculty members who were put to the test.

    The authors speculate that our response derives from behavior observed in other primates. The warning screams of macaques are acoustically similar to nails on a blackboard, they note, suggesting that our reaction is perhaps a vestige of our natural response to such a signal. A 2004 study in the journal Cognition cast doubt on this notion, finding that tamarins reacted less strongly to a scraping noise than did humans in the study. These were a different species of primates, though, so the jury's still out.

    The most serious recent effort to explore skeevy sounds has come from David Zald, an assistant professor of psychology at Vanderbilt. In Zald's research, published in 2002 in the journal Neuroimage, PET scans of the brain documented increased activity in the amygdala, the deep-set portion of the brain that regulates autonomic, or bodily, responses to stimuli, among participants listening to "aversive" sounds — including you-know-what on the you-know-what.

    For his part, Cox has moved to happier pastures: He's now gathering responses to pleasant sounds and expects to release findings late this year. Both Blake and Zald would like to see someone study the fingernails phenomenon further. But such an undertaking would face several daunting obstacles.

    "It's an interesting scientific question," Zald says. "But I think part of the reason it hasn't been taken up is that I'm not quite clear how someone would pitch it in terms of funding." Plus, Zald adds, it might be hard to find participants willing to subject themselves to the odious sounds.

    Cox notes another potential obstacle: In this era of whiteboards and Smart Boards, you'd be hard-pressed, he says, "to find a blackboard in a university these days."


Now where are those collegehumor.com guys when you really need them?

February 7, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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