Different parts of our brain have different tasks. At the bottom there's the "reptilian brain." Inherited from our distant ancestors, it controls basic functions such as breathing and defending territory. Other parts of the brain have evolved more recently to control higher functions such as speaking and solving crossword puzzles.
Somewhere in my reptilian brain there's a lobe I call Junior, after Red Skelton's juvenile character, the Mean Widdle Kid. Junior still hasn't learned how to be patient. He sometimes throws tantrums, and I have to scold him. The function that Junior controls is the bathroom function.
There's no physical difficulty. I have no prostate problems that I know of, and apparently I have a fairly large bladder. As a teenager, I once restrained myself for more than 27 hours (not recommended) because a smelly outhouse was the only facility available.
I can easily work a seven-hour baseball doubleheader without taking a restroom break. In fact, the first time I feel any urge to relieve myself is afterwards, when I've located my car in the ballpark parking garage. That's when Junior wakes up. "Gotta go!" he yelps. "Wanna go right now!" I shush him and promise that we'll take care of business as soon as we get home. He won't shut up until I've fastened my seat belt and put the car in gear, but then the motion of the car seems to lull the widdle kid to sleep. Or maybe it's the familiar task of driving. Anyway, there are no further urges until I've parked at my apartment. "We're home!" he cries. "Gotta go right now!" Just wait one more minute, I plead, quickly unlocking the door and hurrying straight to the toilet.
Junior feels at home in my apartment, and he's less inhibited. During the day, he can pipe up suddenly and insistently, because he knows that the bathroom is only a few steps away. (This never happens when we're away from home.) In the middle of the night, I usually wake up around 3:00 and indulge him. But I realize it's all in my head.
morning, I had just started checking my blood pressure when Junior
decided he wanted to go. "This will only take a
moment," I told him. But he didn't want to be put
off. He never does. He started throwing a fit, screaming,
kicking his feet, turning red in the face. I clenched my
crossed legs. The BP reading appeared on the monitor: 153
over 91. I scribbled it down and hurried off to quiet
Junior. Then I came back and took another reading, just a
couple of minutes after the first one. This time the numbers
were much more healthy: 123 over 75. My pulse rate was
now only 60; it had been 72 before. Numerical proof of what
that mean widdle kid can do to me!
MAY 25, 2018 GATHER YE WHILE YE MAY
who produce their own food are described either as
farmers or as hunter/gatherers.
MAY 22, 2018 CNNWOBC
Let's turn back the calendar more than half a century to the fall of 1967, when I was the Sports Director of Oberlin College's campus radio station.
Every weeknight at 11:00 PM, WOBC presented a half-hour news and commentary program that we called Oberlin Digest. My friends and I interviewed Yeoman coaches and athletes on Fridays. Earlier in the week, Digest was sometimes hosted by our Program Director, senior Ted Gest.
According to WOBC's weekly Program Guides, on at least a couple of occasions Ted chaired a two-part discussion with three freshmen. The panel reviewed an Education Conference on Monday and Tuesday, October 30 and 31. The same four experts returned for a Vietnam "think-in" on December 4 and 5.
MAY 19, 2018 HYPO WHAT?
There's a term for everything, and the word for today is hypogeusia. It describes a decreased ability to taste. I think I have a mild form of it.
This situation has solved one personal problem. I no longer have to worry about how to order a certain lamb-on-pita sandwich. I've always been hesitant, unsure how to pronounce gyro. I knew it wasn't supposed to be like gyroscope. Now I hear the announcer on Arby's commercials saying something like Euro. That can't be right, can it?
Medications to lower my cholesterol and blood pressure might have something to do with my hypogeusia, but probably it's simply aging. The Internet tells us, A healthy tongue sloughs off and regrows taste buds constantly. Once we hit middle age, the buds continue to die and be shed, but a smaller number regenerate as the years go on. And with fewer taste buds in our mouths, flavors begin to taste blander. Nearly half of older folks have some level of impaired taste or smell. The weird thing is that the particular aromas that we lose sensitivity to vary wildly from person to person.
My particular loss of taste must be payback for tormenting my neighbors when I was young the sheep and lambs who lived next door.
Today is WENDsdy, so let me intORduce an uncomfTORble subject. Sometimes we scramble our letters before we speak.
The four-games-out-of-seven NBA playoff series between the Celtics and the Cavaliers is tied at two games apiece. Game 5 will be tonight, and either the Celts or the Cavs could win. However, a radio commentator today referred to league history, and he said that the outcome of Game 5 is critical. For some reason, whoever wins Game 5 goes on to win the series 85% of the time!
Are incomprehensible forces at work? Is there something magic about Game 5 that makes it the key to victory?
No, that 85% figure seems perfectly reasonable to me. Let's look at the probabilities going into Game 5. With four games played so far, the series standings could be either 4-0, 3-1, or 2-2.
Suppose a dozen different series reach Game 5. In roughly six of them, one team will be leading 3-1 (Scenario B1 or B2), while the other six will be tied (Scenario C). If Scenarios B1 and B2 are equally likely (3 times each), we can average the probabilities to (3B1 x 100% + 3B2 x 25% + 6C x 75%) / 12 = 69%.
But Scenarios B1 and B2 are not equally likely. When a series stands at 3-1, which team is more likely to win Game 5? The superior team, the one that already has three wins, correct? So the series-clinching Scenario B1 occurs more often than the delaying-the-inevitable Scenario B2. If it occurs five times out of six, the averages are now (5B1 x 100% + 1B2 x 25% + 6C x 75%) / 12 = 81%.
Now consider other subtle effects such as morale and momentum, plus the fact that the winner of Game 5 gets to return to that same favorable arena for the decisive Game 7, and we can easily justify the 85% result that was obtained experimentally.
The cost of sending an ounce of first-class mail went up by a penny today, but for the first time I didn't have to worry about coping with the increase. The Post Office finally figured out an efficient way to sell stamps, 160 years after the first stamps were issued in 1847.
Until then, wrote John Ross in Smithsonian ten years ago, the federal postal system had operated without stamps. Mail usually traveled postage due. To claim a letter, the addressee, rather than the addressor, paid its postage. A prepaid letter might have suggested an insult, that the recipient was too poor to pay for it himself. But paying for a letter was like receiving a collect call from China. In the 1830s one disgruntled individual harassed an enemy by sending him letters stuffed with blank pages. Many people who received mail simply refused to pay, rejecting the letter outright.
Last year, the Post Office at last introduced the Forever Stamp. You buy it at whatever rate is current, and it can be used on first-class mail at any time, regardless of any price increases in the interim. The fee that long ago was collected when the mail was delivered, and later was collected when the mail was sent, is now collected when the stamp is purchased. It seems like a good idea to me.
I had another idea around 1970, inspired by the IBM computer cards of that era with which we fed Fortran programs and data into a mainframe computer. The cards all had one corner shaved off so that they could be mechanically sorted to face the same direction.
My idea was that the Post Office should give a discount to standard-sized envelopes if they were shaped like trapezoids so they could all be mechanically sorted to face the same direction. But optical recognition techniques have made these non-rectangular envelopes unnecessary, I guess.
MAY 10, 2018 HOT AIR, SIGNIFYING NOTHING
Two years ago on one of his vanity cards, TV producer Chuck Lorre recalled the high school and college essay exams where I purposely tried to hide my lack of preparation behind a voluminous cascade of impressive-sounding words. My theory was that a thick stack of single-spaced purple prose would be so off-putting to the teacher, he or she would slap a C on the paper in order to avoid wading through a lot of cursive bull$#!+.
As a student, I never tried to fill a page with meaningless verbiage. But here's a parody of such attempts. Written in cursive longhand for an illustration in my 1969 college yearbook, the Hi-O-Hi, it purports to be the last page from one of the standardized Bluebooks in which we wrote our examination answers.
Indeed, Hamancha, I believe that I have found the answer at last. Yesterday, while seducing the secretary of the Physics Department, I chanced to note, on the lowest, darkest shelf in the stacks, a monograph dated 1964, titled On the Stability of the Oberlin System. Thinking this an odd title for Physics, I began leafing through it while she took up the burden of the work and discovered that precisely five years ago, it was calculated that were it not for the continuous uprush of hot air over the campus with the resulting updraft and suction, the entire institution would be sucked into the Great Ohio Mud Sea within three months. We must indeed congratulate the President, for by great personal self-sacrifice and effort he has assured, for five long years, that the hot air flow of Oberlin has never once faltered.
It's my impression that in the old days, TV cameramen framed shots of individual performers much more tightly. Now today, with almost seven times as many pixels to work with, the standard framing has been loosened from medium closeup to waist shot.
MAY 6, 2018 ATTENTION MUST BE PAID
According to The Tweet of God, paying attention to Kanye West is a choice.
I don't normally make that choice, but in this case we do need to examine what the rapper actually told TMZ Live. Contrary to the ensuing outrage, he did not claim that slavery was a choice. By definition, involuntary servitude is not voluntary. To make myself clear, he tweeted later, of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will.
What he did mean to say, I think, is that many present-day blacks are choosing to remain slaves to their obsession over being in chains long ago. You hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years?! That sounds like a choice. You was there, and it is all, y'all? It's like we're mentally in prison. My point is, for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved.
MAY 4, 2018 THE WAR ON EDUCATION
A couple of months ago, I expressed some of the following thoughts. But now it's time for a guest column, by Robert S. Elisberg. It's a highly-condensed and formatted version of an essay he posted last December. Most of it, after the first four paragraphs, actually comes from an article he wrote during the previous administration.
Conservatives only have themselves to blame for the rules they wrote and have been playing by for over half a century.
A relentless pounding against the importance of education. To reject facts. To ignore history. To dismiss science. To mistrust the news media. It is no wonder that a Bush White House official ridiculed those who live in the reality-based community.
When information is diminished, it demands having faith that others will lead you. It is no accident that conservative politicians court the religious right as their party's base. Religion is centered on belief, on unquestioning faith. And that is the path to unquestioning faith in everything.
No doubt, some will be up in arms by how supposedly-elitist this all is. But wanting everyone to be as educated as possible is the exact opposite of elitism.
If you don't want to be angered when your candidates are perceived as less than brilliant, then promote brilliance. Don't claim that opinion supplants fact.
MAY 1, 2018 PHI BETA KAPPA