I was captured, and captivated, on a recent visit to the Amazon. Not the U.S.-based multinational electronic commerce company, the river. My wife and I spent a week navigating the headwaters of the Peruvian Amazon, and actually lived to tell about it!
According to our Peruvian guides, the Amazon is the largest and longest river in the world. My sources tell me that it is definitely the largest river, since it carries more water to the sea than any other; however, they argue that at 4,135 miles, the Nile is the longest. Our guide Jorge contends they’re wrong, that based on the recent discovery of the true headwaters of the river, the Amazon actually exceeds the Nile “by 60 miles.”
Married, obsolete human seeks relationship with singular, cutting-edge computer.” In case you missed Watson the AI computer soundly trouncing two human trivia champs on the Jeopardy television game show recently, it may be time to add two new words to your vocabulary: The Singularity.
The Singularity, according to technovelist Lev Grossman, refers to “the moment when technological change becomes so rapid and profound, it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history.” Or as his contemporary, Vernor Vinge, warns in The Coming Technological Singularity, “Within 30 years, we will have the means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.”
CAN WE AGREE that two heads are better than one? Then it should be a no brainer that two suns are better than one, right? Then you’re in luck, Earthlings!
According to Dr. Brad Carter, Senior Lecturer of Physics at the University of Southern Queensland, Betelgeuse, one of the night sky’s brightest stars is losing mass, indicating it is collapsing. Which means it could go supernova any time now. When that happens, Carter says we’ll see a second sun, at least for a few weeks. Did I mention that there may also be 24 hours of daylight until our second sun dies?
CREATURES OF HABIT. I suppose we all are. I certainly am. But what makes us so, what’s the word, predictable?
If you honestly believe you’re not a creature of habit, ask yourself these questions: When you wake up in the morning, which side of the bed do you get up on? When you shower, what part of your body do you soap first? When you brush your teeth, which teeth do you brush first, uppers or lowers? When you put on your shoes, do you put on both socks, or a sock and a shoe and repeat? When you drive to work, do you drive the same route most days? When you get your first cup of coffee, do you add sugar or cream or both before you even taste it? When you answer the phone, do you always use the same salutation? When your meal arrives, do you taste it, or salt and pepper it first?
What color am I? Synesthesia, a combination of the Ancient Greek words for "together" and "sensation," is a neurologically-based condition in which “stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.”
Let me put that in plain English for you: In one common form of synesthesia, known as grapheme color synesthesia, letters and words and numbers are perceived as inherently colored. One of my wife’s business associates is a confirmed synesthete. She says “Sam” (short for Samantha) is red-orange, while “Tim” is blue. She also perceives every number as a color, objects as colors, even days of the week and months of the year as colors.
I’m a catman, with no apologies to my dog-lover friends. While you’re picking up poop behind your pooch, my cat is quietly doing her business in a contraption that scoops her cat litter-laden surprise into a sanitary disposable container. But that’s not the only reason I’m a catman.
Let’s face it: Dogs may be Man’s Best Friend, but when it comes to self-sufficiency, dogs have serious co-dependency issues. Now don’t get me wrong – I have plenty of friends who have dogs, and plenty of dog friends. I just don’t want one living in the same house with me. There’s a reason someone invented the doghouse (I should know, I’m in it often enough!)
HIGHER EDUCATION ISN’T exactly hiring these days in Texas. In fact, after absorbing a five percent cut in state funding by laying off employees, deferring repairs, scaling back travel and finding other savings, Texas is facing the prospect of an additional reduction of 10 percent in the next two-year budget. Does this mean abandoning the State’s goal of greater access to higher education? Not necessarily. But it will most definitely require some very creative solutions.
Steven Weinberg, professor of physics and astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin and a 1979 Nobel Prize winner in Physics may have said it best, “If the University of Texas can solve its budget problems by manufacturing burnt orange macaroni, I’m in favor of that.” Amen, Professor Weinberg. And while burnt orange macaroni might feed the State coffers, Steve Gurasich, my GSD&M partner of 39 years, and I may have a better solution.
I’M NOT NORMAL. At least that’s what my wife, my children, and most of my friends tell me. Question is, “Is that a bad thing?” You see, I believe that normal is the psychological equivalent of boring. Boring, I’m not. Nor do I consider myself abnormal.
When I think of abnormal, I am reminded of one of my favorite movies, Mel Brooks’ manic masterpiece, Young Frankenstein. I’m particularly fond of the dialogue between Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (it’s Fronkensteen) and his hunchbacked lab assistant, Igor (it’s pronounced Eye-gor):
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Now that brain you gave me. Was it Hans Delbruck’s?
Igor: Abby Someone.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Abby Someone. Abby who?
Igor: Abby Normal.
AT THE RISK of sounding oxymoronic, I say “Jazz rocks!” I’ve been a jazz freak since I first heard Dave Brubeck reinvent time with Take Five. But I’ve always wondered where the word jazz came from.
Oddly enough, you’ll find the earliest known references to jazz in the sports pages of various West Coast newspapers covering the legendary Pacific Coast League, a baseball minor league. In the Los Angeles Times on April 2, 1912, there appears this reference to Portland Beavers pitcher Ben Henderson: “I’ve got a new curve this year, and I’m goin’ to pitch one or two of them tomorrow. I call it the Jazz ball because it wobbles and you simply can’t do anything with it.”
EVER SEEN A ZEDONK? I’m not surprised if you haven’t even heard of a zedonk, because it’s definitely a horse of a different color. A different stripe, for that matter.
A zedonk—also called a zonkey, zebonky, zebrinny, zebrula, or zebrass—is the offspring of any cross between a zebra and a donkey. In most cases, the sire is the zebra stallion. Offspring of a donkey sire and a zebra mare, called a zebra hinny or donkra, do exist but are rare. The extinct quagga was also a crossbreed of horses and donkeys. Distinguished English naturalist Charles Darwin noted several zebra hybrids in his works.