A Couple More Random Things I Learned

I’ll keep it short but sweet.

So, I go to a Jewish school: I only recently learned that for purposes of kosher cuisine, fish is not considered meat. I should have figured this out when I was 3 and learned the joys of bagels, lox, and cream cheese. However, I grew up in the kind of household where kishka might well be served with pork roast.

On Diversity: Your eyes don’t look like mine. My hands don’t look like yours. That’s pretty obvious, right? What might not be obvious is that our other parts probably don’t look the same either. Most students learning anatomy use drawings and models that are somewhat idealized. Sometimes what you see in reality isn’t what you saw in your textbook. Not everyone realizes this until they are confronted by it.


Some years ago, I read a book called the Inner Game of Music. In a manner of speaking, it was about getting out of your own way. Oddly enough, one of the things that stuck with me about this book was a peculiar concept: giving yourself permission to fail. Apparently many people have learned this lesson from many sources.

So yes, it can be a good habit to permit ourselves to fail. And although I am far from the first person to explore the concept, I would like to share why I think it is so.

Paying attention to failure teaches how to succeed. Of course, this only applies when we pay attention, and fail “mindfully.” The truth is that most of us fail a time or two when we are learning something new. One anecdote from the Inner Game of Music relays how when a pair of musicians tried to isolate when their duet went awry, suddenly it was perfect! When we pay attention to how, when, and why we fail, we come up with solutions.

Failure teaches us about ourselves and about reality. How we react to failure can give us insight to who we really are — but again, only if we are willing to pay attention. But more importantly, failure can be the beginning of discovery! Or, as Isaac Asimov put it, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka’ but ‘That’s funny…'” Consider Alexander Fleming discovering that the “contamination” in his bacterial culture was actually exactly the exact bacteria-killer he’d been looking for. If he hadn’t been willing to learn, he might have thrown away that specimen and never discovered that antibiotic.

Sometimes, our failures fail spectacularly! No, I’m not talking about all those online videos we’ve watched many times of people doing stupid things on skateboards or motorcycles. I’m talking about a failure that turns out for the best. My favorite example occurred in the original Iron Chef series. Chen Kenichi was the chef who specialized in Chinese cuisine (a footnote, his father invented “shrimp in chili sauce”). A French challenger chef decided to take on Kenichi-san rather than the show’s French specialist, perhaps thinking this gave him an advantage. The secret ingredient was yogurt, unused in Chinese cuisine. You can see for yourself: between 8:30 and 9:00 minutes into the video, Kenichi-san gives himself permission to fail. After all, he’s never used this stuff, never even tasted it. But freed from the need to succeed, he experiments and innovates his way into one of his most memorable wins.

There’s nothing wrong with failing now and again, as long as you aren’t doing something colossally dangerous.

In Closing: milk fail; chart fail; vax fail (don’t do this one); wedding fail; jobs report fail; weight loss fail; just, fail; patient confidentiality fail; accidental paleontology win!

It’s time for Things I Learned This Semester!

That’s right, another semester is over! If you’re curious about things I’ve learned in the past, please enjoy some links to other posts. So let’s get going with the latest revelations:


  • Eventually, the staff in charge of cleaning bathrooms will notice the graffiti on the back of the bathroom stall door.
  • The kind of high school student who takes college classes is motivated to succeed.
  • An alarming number of undergraduates don’t even know there’s a difference between viruses and bacteria. Come on people, take the whole run of antibiotics and never take somebody else’s meds.
  • Parking on campus gets easier after midterms.

Child Psych:

  • Because of a quirk of how children learn language, most children can relate to Ramona Beasley or Amelia Bedelia misunderstanding what they are told.
  • We adults might not like to think about it, but children are aware of sexual issues much earlier than puberty. Put CCSD’s issues in context.
  • The most messed up thing I have ever read for a class — any class — is the story of David Reimer.


  • I knew that “You can’t out-train a bad diet”. I didn’t know this was mathematically provable. Go ahead and plug some numbers into a calorie calculator and an activity calculator. You can eat a lot more calories than you can possibly burn in a day!
  • The Food Pyramid is gone, and good riddance. Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies, and don’t worry too much about grains.
  • You don’t have to pay Carl Daikeler to put together a workout and diet plan for you, but it’s better than what many people would put together for themselves.
  • A lot of people apparently take Nutrition as an easy class.


  • In a college Spanish class, there are likely to be one or two people who speak Spanish ok but want to learn better grammar and spelling.
  • A Spanish professor from Spain and a Spanish professor from Central America have some fundamentally different ways of doing things.
  • Public speaking is more difficult in a foreign language.
  • Spanish doesn’t actually have a “past tense.” Instead, they have a “preterite” that serves the same function.
  • Don’t be afraid of the Hispanic grocery store. Odds are very good that the employees you’re likely to encounter are bilingual.


  • Fun and danger in a chemistry lab often go together. It’s important to have a good lab partner and follow directions.
  • The chemical reactions that let antacids work often create gas. If you know how to do the math, you can figure out exactly how much acid you’re neutralizing and exactly how much gas you’ve burped.
  • Some guy actually built a periodic table.
  • Even though the pH scale familiar to swimming pool owners goes from 0 to 14, a pH of less than 0 is possible. This guy won a Nobel Prize for it.

That’s it for today. I’m skipping the closing bits. Have a great weekend!


Here CNN, let me fix that headline for you. You see, you’ve got it as “Tense Ferguson awaits grand jury ruling; mayor says authorities prepared“. What you meant to say was “Mayor says authorities ready to rumble.” Let’s just face it, there’s going to be trouble. The fact that the cops look like an occupying army is in fact an incitement. And let’s also just face it, the authorities are preparing to put down a popular uprising because they know damn well that the grand jury will rubber stamp the idea that cops only shoot Very Bad People, even when the Very Bad thing they are doing is just walking down the street.

In Closing: dark matter; no kidding, a thing that flies in the air falls under FAA jurisdiction; modern slavery; and that’s why this happened; and finally, best headline you’re likely to see today.

Music Monday: Michael’s Crafts Customer 4 Evah

Ok, so the Supreme Court came out with an extremely narrow ruling regarding whether closely held private corporations can refuse to provide contraceptive coverage for employees. So yeah, even if I were a crafty type of person — which [Deity] knows I’m not — I won’t be going into that hobby store with the rhyming name. Except maybe to loudly announce “Oh wait! This is that place where the employees aren’t allowed to have birth control!”* and walk out.



* Ok yeah, an exaggeration I know.

In Closing: Wow; truth; veggies; workers; Oz; sneeze; military; and infrastructure.

Return to BloodShorties Lake

You can thank Drew for the title inspiration. It’s sometimes tough to keep thinking of Shorties titles!

Beating the same drum: so here’s today’s tab dump on the freaking mess that continues to be the NSA, DEA, FBI, and Edward Snowden.

And now for something completely different: a nice selection of  health, health insurance, and healthy diet links.

Armchair economist: yeah, still collecting choice bits on the economy and how it effects Joe Average for you. But hey, at least Congress gets plenty of vacation days. After all, they work so hard preventing legislation.

Oh Look: the Duhpartment of Research has been at it again.

I can’t bring myself to spend that: Average price of a new car is now over $31k.

Education Official has Moment of Sanity: Huh, maybe school should start later.

On Libertarianism and Property Rights: Seriously.

Don’t you think you should have read the book before writing about it?:did read the book, thank you. I wasn’t required to. I wanted to as part of a research project. How about we stop focusing on the fact that there was a lot of racism years ago, and celebrate the improvements that have been made to medical care, medical privacy, and race relations since then? Not saying everything is perfect, just better. How about we temper praise for the author compiling primary source materials with the fact that it’s hard to find any scholarship on the subject not filtered by her findings and bias?

Speaking of medicine: Gin and Tonic and the British Empire.

Shhhhhhh: A judge has thrown out the right of the US to maintain an international no-fly list.

And Finally: a couple of nice videos to waste your time.

Shorties of Chuckie

Ok, let’s start with the NSA data dump: boy howdy and I do mean dump. Big mean dookie here and the administration keeps adding to the pile. Advice to the White House: sunlight is a good disinfectant.

On Republicans: And a possible shutdown of the government (because that worked out so well for the Republicans during the Clinton Administration). But remember, they know better than 97% of scientists about climate change (and for those who are religious? Rush is wrong and if Jesus does come back he’s gonna be honked about what we’ve done with the planet). Oh, and alert the media, I agree with Roger Simon.

On Computer Literacy: Most people aren’t. Even those kids we think are so much better on the computer than their elders. At least many of the elders are aware of the things they don’t know.

An Accidental Invention: The teabag.

On the Labor Force: There is no labor shortage, duh. Alien workers — including the undocumented ones — are sought after because they are easily exploited. Interns are free labor (which means it can be a challenge for young workers to accept the so-called opportunity unless Mummy and Daddy pony up cash). Modern Capitalism looks a whole lot like Feudalism.

Real Life MacGyver: Snakes on a Catapult and 9 other great tricks.

The Truth about Eyeglasses: pupillary distance, and adjusting your frames.

Petroglyphs: Over 10,000 years old.

On a Happier Note: Steinway sold for $512,000,000. Interestingly enough, the C above Middle C should be tuned to 512 hertz.

No Credit isn’t Bad Credit: the unscoreables.

Accurate Title: Yes, Vaccinations Save Lives.

I Question Their Criteria: Edmunds.com’s list of “best” cars for short drivers doesn’t even mention adjustable belt points and properly proportioned seats.

Hmmm: Childhood obesity linked to school lunches and TV watching.

Scientists having a pissing contest: On de-extinction.

And finally: Goodnight iPad.

ShortWoman’s Super Simplified Campaign Finance Plan

Over the years, I’ve talked about tax simplification and campaign season streamlining. Today I share my idea — singular — for simplifying campaign finance. Since it’s clear that we are unlikely to get to a place where campaigns are publicly funded and each candidate is sharply limited on what he (usually he, sometimes she) can do and since McCain-Feingold has been perverted beyond repair, it’s time to add my virtual two cents. It’s very simple:

To contribute to a candidate’s campaign, you should have to prove that you can legally vote for that candidate.

This can be easily done by attaching a photocopy of the donor’s voters registration card to the contribution voucher. This has several key benefits:

  • Neither corporations nor unions could contribute to campaigns. Neither one can legally vote. Conservatives and Liberals? This is detente.
  • It affirms that the results of an election are primarily the business of the constituents. I like Elizabeth Warren, but why should I be allowed to meddle in Massachusetts politics by sending money? Why should somebody from another state be able to manipulate my local elections by infusing capital?
  • It limits the influence of big donors. Sure, Sheldon Adelson will still have a lot of sway in Nevada — along with Steve Wynn and Irwin Molasky  (why not) — but except for Presidential campaigns, influence stops at Primm.
  • It would reduce fraud.

The powers that be clearly have a vested interest in keeping elections a giant slush fund. However, We The People deserve better.

In Closing: More on the NSA, the TSA, and wisdom from Bruce Schneier; what decade is this again?; making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got (and sometimes a bunch of credit to cover what you don’t got); duh; the real Lone Ranger?; and a giant virus.

Music Monday: Christmas in July

Ok, this is not actually the track I wanted. Brave Combo is a North Texas based band with a following in Japan. A while back they did a Christmas album. As the story goes:

We never considered recording a Christmas album before. Everyone had already heard most of the famous songs enough for a lifetime and the challenge to make them fresh would be immense. Plus, Brave Combo walks a pretty thin line between novelty and serious anyway. A Christmas album would just never have Crossed our minds. However, in early 1991, during our second trip to Japan, a man from P-Vine Records asked us if we would be interested in the idea. “What, an album of Japanese Christmas music?” I asked. “No, there are no Japanese Christmas songs,” he replied, which meant to me that he wanted an album of standard melodies and songs that Americans hear and sing every winter. It seems that Christmas is a big holiday in Japan as well, stripped of all religious significance: a time of indulgent buying and gift-giving (a Japanese art) when Jesus Christ is acknowledged, but no more important an icon than Frosty, the Snowman. The idea was definitely interesting. We could choose a bunch of our favorite Christmas songs, mutate them into new shapes and release them in Japan only. Plus P-Vine had big plans. They would re-release it every year and perhaps it would become a classic. If the album came out too corny for jaded western ears, it wouldn’t matter. No one in the U.S. would even have to know about it.

So I had hoped to post their track “Christmas in July,” but it’s just not out there as far as I can tell.

In Closing: race relations; common sense on Social Security; eggs; on our shrinking freedoms; some good news for a change; and “Tiny Rat Cocktail Parties.”