ScrimismsPresently suffering a dearth of witticisms

February 2006

Books and Musings27 Feb 2006

I’ve slowly been wading through Richard Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale, which I got for Christmas (take that Dawkins! I religious holiday was the reason you got paid for your book! Muhahahaha – Aside, for those who don’t know, Dawkins is about the most outspoken hardcore atheist there is, and that’s why we love him).

The chapter I’ve just read blew my mind. Using the example of elephant seals, Dawkins discusses how species with large differences between the sexes tend towards polygamy. Elephant seals are an extreme case: the males can weigh up to six times more than the females. They use all that extra body-mass to beat other males into submission and claim large harems. In the extreme case, Dawkins says that in one study of elephant seals, 4% of males accounted for 88% of the next generation. The rest of the males apparently moped around watching TV and never getting laid.

Closer to home, Gorilla males have harems (or no women at all) and tend to be twice the size of gorilla females. Gibbon males and females are equal sized and are very monogamous.

So what of humans? “In most physical sports”, writes Dawkins, “every single one of the world’s top hundred men would beat of every single one of the world’s top hundred women”. There are slight, but noticeable differences between the physical prowess of males and females, in other words. It’s plausible that in our recent evolutionary history, we were a “mildly polygamous”. Crazy!

Meanwhile, I’m barely 5’8″, scrawny, bespectacled, uncoordinated, and single.

News21 Feb 2006

The cabbie that drove me home tonight told me that he was the Ice Man.

I said “Why are you called that?”

“Because I’m the best damn driver there is”.

He asked me if I minded if he stopped at Tim’s to get a coffee (The Ice Man drinks it double triple). I said “sure”. I figured having a caffeinated driver is better than having a sleepy one. He told me the about being the Ice Man while we were waiting in the drive-through.

“I been driving 20 years” he said. “I know every damn nook and cranny in this town. Plus I was born and raised here”. He told me he took a professional driver’s course without even studying and got a 98%, “Even better than the instructor, he only got a 97″.

“Thats an Ice-man score” I said.

When we got the the bridge he asked me if it was okay if he smoked. I couldn’t bring myself to say no to the Ice Man. He rolled down the window. “The whole world is my ashtray” he said.

Close to home he asked me “Where you say you were going again?” I told him my address and started to explain where that was, but he cut me off, Indignant. “I was born and raised here! I know where that is!”

He missed my driveway and had to double back.

Movies20 Feb 2006

I saw The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico today. It’s a mockumentary about a (fictional) Canadian country music legend, and contains a mix of actors and real musicians. Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard have fairly large parts (as themselves, waxing on about their memories of the infamous Terrifico to the “documentary” film crew). There are a bunch of other musicians with appearances of various lengths, including Colin Linden and Ronnie Hawkins.

Guy is a somewhat hapless country musician who gets his start by winning 8 million dollars in the lottery. He spends most of his time drunk, stoned, and bumping into things. Occasionally he sits down to play and sing. There’s also a midget, a doomed trip to Nashville, the infamous “hump the drum” tour, and frequent head trauma.

I haven’t laughed so hard in ages. Some of the music is pretty good too.

News19 Feb 2006

I’ve had the hiccups all day. They keep disappearing for short periods of time and making me think they’re gone, only to re-emerge.

I think I’ll have to resort to the upside down drinking water trick again. I tried it half-heartedly around lunch time without success. It used to work perfectly for me when I was a kid but since growing up I find it less effective (Probably something about it being harder for an adult to get into the proper position. Plus, I sometimes get water up my nose and I hate that).

Musings14 Feb 2006

It’s that holiday again. First time I’ve been single for one in half a decade. I’ve decided I don’t really care all that much. Let the attached boys fret about what their significant-others expect, and let the long-distance boys feel miserable. Me, I had a pretty good sandwich for lunch.

(With apologies to any dear readers who might be fretting or feeling miserable).

Food and News12 Feb 2006

For Christmas, my dad gave me a pasta machine. He chose this gift after hearing me lament “If it didn’t cost so much I’d eat fresh pasta all the time”. Tonight I finally tried it out. Things looked bad early on as I got the dough mixture horribly wrong. For a while it looked like I wouldn’t be making much besides a large mess (As I type this I’ve discovered yet another enclave of flour clinging to my arm for dear life). I eventually got it sorted, and embarked on the long ritual of cranking dough through the rollers.

My noodles turned out surprisingly well. The taste was a little off (see earlier comments about screwing up the dough mixture) but the fact that the end result was actually recognizable as pasta has me keen to try again.

I ate my first batch in a tasty (and easy) chicken pesto recipe I learned from my fellow research-group student Dave. He was kind enough to have me over for dinner, gaming and cognitive science debates on Friday night.

We played Settlers of Catan, and with my host’s help I acquitted myself rather well, managing to get into a 3-way time for first place a few turns before the end of the game (which a more experienced player managed to clinch).

News08 Feb 2006

As I mentioned previously the harddrive in my powerbook failed a few weeks ago. It has since been repaired and returned to me. I’ve come to think of the three (yes, three!) weeks between it dying and it being restored as the “dark times”.

Continue Reading »

Links05 Feb 2006

It’s sunday afternoon. It’s rainy. I’m marking and cooking curry. My red pen is running short of ink.

Apparently a Bush-appointed administrator at NASA wrote a memo reminding everyone that the Big Bang is “only a theory…”

Direct link to NYT article, relevant parts are on page two.


Update: The administrator in question has resigned.

News03 Feb 2006

I had a new battery put in my watch.

I had a new battery put in my watch and it made me feel good about the world and my place in it.

I had the new battery put in at a fairly fancy jewelry shop in the mall. You know the kind of place: elaborate lighting, highly professional staff all aged over 30, rows of glass display cases holding endless expensive trinkets meant for giving to the woman or man you love.

Normally I feel intimidated by such places. I felt intimidated tonight. When I first arrived and queued up behind another person getting a battery put in her watch, I stood with one foot in the store and one foot in the mall corridor. You know, in case I had to suddenly bolt. After standing half-in the store and smiling benignly at the world for a few minutes I decided that this was silly. I walked the rest of the way in and pretended to be interested in the watch display (Watches, good masculine thing to look at. Damn sight better than looking at the engagement rings or somesuch…).

Eventually my turn came.

During the few minutes it took the clerk to locate and install a new battery I suddenly came to like jewelry shops. Where else can you be waited on by an exceedingly personable, well-dressed and well-adorned handsome gentleman of indeterminate sexual orientation? His polite and easy manner made me feel welcome.

The battery cost about $5, which seemed a paltry sum to pay in a shop with the word “diamond” in the name, but the clerk took no notice. He simply thanked me heartily for my patronage.

I walked out of the store feeling lifted.

Links and Music01 Feb 2006

(Unless you’re in the habit of listening to Sweet Home Chicago, in which case, all bets are off).

I find Jian Ghomeshi to be vaguely irritating, but I’ve got hooked on his show The National Playlist. There are some good songs in the current top 10, including KD Lang doing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, but the song that’s been rattling around my head lately is “Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens. I’d never heard of the man or the song until hearing it on the radio, but I guess that’s no surprise given my general aversion to keeping up with what the cool kids are into. If you click the preceding link you can have a listen for yourself.