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Monday, October 28, 2013

The Geezer or the Giraffe

A Problem With the Logic...


My sister posted a riddle on Facebook, the answer to which, she claims I got wrong. She also got it "wrong" and has changed her avatar to a Giraffe.  Here is the riddle: 
  • 3:00 am, the doorbell rings, and you wake up. You have unexpected visitors. It's your parents, and they have arrived for breakfast. You have strawberry jam, honey, wine, bread, and a variety of fine cheese. What is the first thing you open? If you get it right you have bragging rights on the post, but do not tell the answer! If you get it wrong, you must change your profile picture to a giraffe.
My answer:  THE DOOR
The supposedly correct answer:  YOUR EYES

Sis was doing some serious gloating over my mistake let me tell you, but I disagree with the "correct" answer and I ain't doing the Giraffe. The story asks its question about what I need to open first after I've already opened my eyes and gone to see who's at the door. The decision-making process it asks about begins there, not in the bed. You cannot know it's your parents or that they are at the door if your eyes are closed. The question is deliberately flawed to play the "gotcha" when you get it wrong as you surely will if you do not think logically about the question. The answer is a logical cheat. It gives you information that your parents are here, at the door and you have all this stuff for breakfast and then asks you to make a decision based on information, that you cannot have with eyes closed, as to which thing to open first. You cannot know any of this stuff if you are asleep or your eyes closed. 

At the point the question is asked, you must already be awake and up. The decision asked about, must therefore be made at that point, not while you're back in the bed, eyes closed. To get the answer "your eyes", you must ignore the context of the question or rewrite the story so that you're lying in bed with your eyes closed when you make the momentous decisions "What do I open first?" This is not specified, so, based on the information given in the story, one must deduce that the decision point is after your eyes are already open, but before the parents are admitted to the house (which we are not told has happened yet). So, "your eyes" is not the correct answer to this puzzle - Quod erat demonstrandum.

The problem is that kids who make these things up are not learning logic in school and precious little about the niceties of the English language apparently. To quote Professor Digory in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, "What are they teaching in schools these days?"

So which is it to be............the geezer (me) or the giraffe?

© 2013 by Tom King

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Cowlick Conundrum

Unlike Alfalfa, I didn't have to
grease mine to make it stick up
I used to have a cowlick right on top of my head when I was a kid.  It stood straight up like Alfalfa's on The Little Rascals.  For years, I just wore my hair in a burr and looked like Zondor from Planet Zoombar what with my skinny physique, big head and flappy Dumbo ears.  As I drew close to maturity, Mom let me grow my hair out and we had to let it grow at least three inches long on top in order for the Royal Crown Hair Grease to hold the cowlick down successfully.  So I wore a Ricky Nelson pompadour held in place with this icky grease stuff.  What I would have given for a tube of hair gel. Brylcream and Vitalis were totally ineffective and guys in them days did NOT use hairspray unless they wanted to be beaten up and left for dead on the playground. 

For years I had to tell the barber not to cut the hair on the crown of my head short or it would stick up. As I got into my 30s however, my instructions about leaving it long on the top seemed to cause my hair stylists some confusion. Then one day I gave my standard instruction to the old-fashioned GI barber I had gone to that day, about not cutting it too short on the top because of the cowlick.  He just kind of stopped and you could see him trying to decide something in his head.  Finally, he reached over and took a mirror off the counter, turned me to face the wall mirror and held the hand mirror up so I could see the back of my head.

"I don't think you need to worry about that cowlick anymore," he said. "I think it fell out."

I could see in the mirror, to my horror, that my Father's bald spot had broken out on top of my head. "Oh, well," I thought philosophically, "At least I won't have to wear Royal Crown hair grease on top of my head anymore."  I never did like that stuff anyway.

I'd been wondering why I hadn't seen my cowlick in a while.  I just thought the Royal Crown was doing its job exceptionally well. Nowadays I'm 59, white-haired and am growing my hair down my back. One day I hope to get it long enough to braid into a sailor's queue.  It's kind of a race as to whether I'm going to reach the requisite length or go completely bald first.  I'm hoping the stuff will quit falling out because I'm tired of being stuck in the perpetual pony tail phase. I'd like to get ahead long enough to achieve my sailor braid. It's on my bucket list next to taking disco dancing lessons.

I tried tying two pony tails, one on each side, the other day but it made me look like zombie Pippy Longstocking.  The dog hid under the desk and Sheila threatened me with scissors.

Oh, well, que sera sera as Doris Day used to say. I bet Doris never had trouble with cowlicks.

© 2013 by Tom King

Sunday, October 13, 2013

10-13 Skeptic's Day

Download Skeptic Day card here.
October 13th is Skeptics Day.  That said, one would be entitled to be skeptical of my editorial skills since I goofed up and accidentally published this Howdyyadewit post here instead of where it's supposed to be ---- HERE!

It was late, I was tired (and you may insert the usual excuses here).  Sorry if I confused anyone.  - Tom

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Protecting Our Princesses - A Male Chauvinist View

She may be a bit more militant
but the shoes still match the bow!
Every Halloween it's the same. THE most popular costume for girls is some sort of princess outfit. There is, however, increasing pressure on parents these days to teach our daughters to reject the "princess paradigm" for women and adopt what these self-appointed "experts" call a more"kick-ass" role model.

Well, perhaps some of these would-be cultural paradigm shifters missed it, but some of Disney's princesses were pretty "kick-ass" in their own right. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for teaching our daughters to be self-assured, independent of spirit and self-reliant. We tried to teach our own daughter that when she was growing up and I think she learned the lessons well. I'm very proud of her independence and her feisty self-assurance. She's a pistol, I'm here to tell you.

At the same time, we need to be careful not to make men out of our girls as we try to teach them to become more durable women. The trick is not to train out of them, the very biological characteristics that make them who and what they are. 

Women's contributions to our world and to the quality of life in our world are unique. We need that ability to nurture, that instinct to protect the sanctity of the family circle and that ability to find win/win solutions. Men don't do that so well. We're more about kicking buttocks and taking names. We're more linear in the way we approach life. Point us at a problem and we roll straight over it. But ask us to figure out what everyone around us needs to make them happy and we're lost. That is a gift, not given the male of the species in any great quantity.  It is a uniquely feminine gift. It is the example of our mom's and wives and sweethearts that keep us males from driving straight over the goal-directed precipice that lies at the end of our distinctly male style of thinking.

Feminists like to say funny things like "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." 
Perhaps that's true in some sense, though I seriously doubt it. The important thing is that a man needs a woman to make him truly a man. That's no shame to a man, just the way God made us. Together, a man and woman form a complete person. It's not just that the physical parts fit. It's the heads and hearts as well. It turns out that men and women are symbiotic creatures. We're each given half the equation.  Call me a romantic, but I have found this to be the truth. Were I to lose my soul mate, I might go on, but something will always be missing until we are reunited at the end of it all.

It may sound chauvinist and you may call me a stupid male if you wish, but we need our princesses - not as helpless objects, but as partners in the struggle of life. Someone once noted that Eve was made, not from a bit of Adam's skull to be above him or from his foot to be beneath him, but from his rib to stand at his side. You women are the reason we men willingly rush to stand between the dragons and our families.

And if the dragons do manage to get past us, we need to know they still have Mama to deal with.  So, what's wrong with that?

© 2013 by Tom King

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Banjo Proves Vital Instrument in Survival of Shackleton Expedition

Dr. Leonard Hussey's Banjo is preserved by the London Maritime Museum

Brett and Kay McKay mentioned an unusual bit of banjo history in their post today on The Art of Manliness.  Apparently Dr. Leonard Hussey, meteorologist and a member of the ill-fated 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition led by Ernest Shackleton, owned a five-string banjo. He brought it along on the expedition and played it frequently, leading crew sing-alongs on board the expedition's ship Endurance - at least until Endurance became wedged in the ice and began to break up. Shackleton ordered the men to abandon ship.  His plan?  To hike 346 miles across the ice to Paulet Island dragging 2 lifeboats weighing a ton each and from there to row to the South American mainland.

Dr. Hussey
Shackleton ordered the men to leave behind everything except 2 pounds worth of personal possessions. The men were forced to ditch money, jewelry, extra clothes and keepsakes. The only things allowed to exceed the two pound limit were the surgeons' medical supplies and Leonard Hussey's 12-pound banjo. The thing was practically an anvil next to what the others were allowed, but Shackleton ordered it lashed underneath one of the lifeboats and brought along.

Shackleton called Hussey's banjo “vital mental medicine” and told the crew they would need it before their long and grueling journey ended. Later, Shackleton would credit Hussey and his banjo as “a vital factor in chasing away symptoms of depression” in the crew during the long journey and subsequent sea voyage.

Autographs of the Shackleton crew on Hussey's banjo.
Steve Martin once said, “The banjo is such a happy instrument–you can’t play a sad song on the banjo –it always comes out so cheerful.”  You can be singing about the most awful things and it still sounds cheerful. Hussey apparently shared some of the same characteristics as his instrument of choice. Shackleton said this about Hussey in his book.  " The demons of depression could find no foothold when he was around; and, not content with merely "telling," he was "doing" as much as, and very often more than, the rest. He showed wonderful capabilities of leadership and more than justified the absolute confidence that I placed in him. Hussey, with his cheeriness and his banjo, was another vital factor in chasing away any tendency to downheartedness."

So next time you go on an expedition or even a vacation, consider leaving behind the extra fancy outfits you'll never wear and the 20 pound bottle of shampoo (the hotels have little bottles of shampoo and they replace them every day). Instead, invest 12 pounds of luggage weight and bring along your banjo. Who knows, it may turn out to be instrumental to your survival!

One final note on the banjo itself.  The instrument is called a 5-string banjo, but the headstock looks like a six string classical guitar headstock. A banjo type of the time called a banjo-zither had this type of headstock and Hussey's banjo may have been something like the modern six-string banjo made popular by LeAnn Rimes, Keith Urban and Robert Plant.  It can be played like a guitar, but has the sound and durability of a banjo.  If anyone has more information drop me a note.  The banjo itself as displayed in the museum only has 4 strings as you can see, but there seems to be the faint shadow of a fifth string on the head. The banjo-zither was a sturdy wooden backed design with six tuning pegs. It generally was strung with only five strings, but could accommodate a sixth.  Can't tell for sure if this one has a wooden back.  The company in Britain that is making a Shackleton tribute banjo that's an open back traditional 5-string. One commenter on the site did say the Hussey banjo was a banjo-zither.

Whatever it was, apparently the "glory-beaming banjo" as Twain called it, saved the day for Shackleton and his boys.  Pretty cool, little piece of history.

© 2013 by Tom King

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Meggers Sulking - My Masterpiece - Sort Of!

The Drawing:

The Story:

I was reading the book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" back when we had a daycare in our home. I wanted to learn to draw. It was nap time and Meggers was 12. She got into some kind of mischief and I made her sit in time out for a few minutes.

While she was sitting I sketched this picture of her sulking using the technique taught in the book. It's my favorite picture I ever drew. Haven't done another half as well since. It's pretty much the only drawing I ever did where you could tell who it was that I was drawing.

I can still see that hat, the sloppy shirt of her brother's and the raggedy jeans. She was giving me the "Big Ig". The girl made sulking an art form!

Someone suggested I use this image to create a character for a book. Actually that's not a half-bad idea.


© 2013

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Six Types of Humorists

Donald Wolfit
The great English Actor, Sir Donald Wolfit (right) was asked on his deathbed how he felt about dying. "Dying is easy," he opined. "Comedy is hard." I agree with whoever said there is a certain amount of pain behind most, if not all humor. Not all of them, but a lot of comedians have led tragic lives or at least experienced hardship. I think to survive, humorists learn to laugh. Others simply shoot themselves.

There are six basic types of humorists I believe.

Jokesters - For this group timing is everything and surprise the key. These are kings of the one-liner and the "two guys go into a bar" brand of humor. Great jokers include - Rodney Dangerfield, Bob Hope and Henny Youngman.

Storytellers - These are the folks that take a hard look at things we find serious and find the humor in it. Human foibles and awkward situations form the meat of their humor. Great storytellers include Bill Cosby, Garrison Keillor, Mark Twain, Lewis Grizzard, Justin Wilson, Patrick McManus and James Thurber as well as great comedic actors like Robin Williams, Dan Ackroyd, Danny Kaye, Tim Conway and Dom Deluise tell stories through their portrayals on screen.

Observational Humorists - These guys look for the ironies and disconnects between what we say we believe and what we actually do; between what we accept as perfectly normal and what it really looks like if you stand back a little. Great observational humorists include - Jerry Seinfeld, Gallagher, Andy Kauffman, Peter Sellers and Steve Martin. They put square pegs in round holes and show us why they don't fit and make us feel a little guilty that they don't.

Linguistic Humorists - Someone once said, "Who would pun would pick a pocket. These folks have fun playing with words. Linguistic humor includes funny poems, Limericks and puns. Some famous linguistic humorists include - Bennett Cerf, Edward Lear, Abbott and Costello, Groucho Marx and Ogden Nash

Bathroom or Anal Humorists - These folks create humor by describing out loud, what most of us do behind closed doors and wish no one ever knew we did there. The laughs come from the discomfort we feel talking about farts, people's bottoms or other naughty bits and sex. - There are few well-known bathroom humorists because as they learn their craft, most successful humorists move away from the potty-mouthed sorts of humor to something more mainstream since there's more money in it. It's a good way to get attention at first, but gets old after a while. I mean, how many times can you say the "F" word before it stops getting a laugh? Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Kathy Griffin and Andrew Dice Clay started out doing some of that uncomfortable "dirty words" kind of humor. Some gradually grew out of it, notably Murphy. Some never did and their careers wax over time as audiences tire of the cheap "naughty" humor and forget they are supposed to be laughing.

Physical Humorists (clowns) - Folks who rely on physical humor use unexpected situations, pratfalls and awkward moments to mine laughter. Great physical comedians include Dick Van Dyke, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Chevy Chase, John Cleese, Lucille Ball, The Three Stooges, The Marx Brothers and Carol Burnett.  Oh, and Laurel and Hardy - forgot them (thanks Paul).

Knowing all this, however, does not guarantee that you can tell a joke or perform a pratfall so that it looks funny and not painful. I think the key element to being funny is the ability to get outside your own head and look honestly at yourself and the people around you and to not take yourself too seriously. I've never known a self-absorbed or dishonest person who was really funny - at least not deliberately so.  

Humorists might be abrasive or hard to get along with, but somewhere in their core they really do realize what silly creatures we all are including themselves. All that is, except the bathroom humorists.

Those guys can be real jerks!

Just one man's opinion,

Tom King
© 2010