Posted by: Mark | July 22, 2014

Odds R

Here’s a little information from Roger L. Schlaifer’s Odds’R: The Odds on Everything Book (2005).


 Lifetime chance of drowning: 1 in 900. As of 2003, 3,300 people a year drown: 1,000 in natural bodies of water, 600 in swimming pools, 300 in bathtubs, and the rest in “unspecified.” (Unclear if this was global or just American.)


According to a study done in Vanderbilt, the odds of an anorexic girl becoming bulimic in college is one to one.


Odds of Irish dying from starvation or disease spread from the famine during the potato famine was one in four.


85% of dieters lose weight but only 15% keep it off after two years.


The odds of soldiers coming down with dysentery or serious diarrhea in the Civil War was 995 out of 1,000.


Posted by: Mark | July 21, 2014

1,100 Miles

Early in the year, I posted that after hitting 500 miles that I wouldn’t mention 100 mile-stones. Almost immediately afterwards, I slacked off on running. I finally hit 1,000 miles on July 5.

This afternoon, after 7.5 miles, I reached 1,101 miles exactly (and when I say “exactly,” I mean without any real auditing of my math. I’ve probably got five to ten miles more but officially I’m on 1,001).

I’m going to shoot for August 5 before hitting 1,200. I won’t promise to post about it or not.

Posted by: Mark | July 18, 2014

The Converts

Back in 1910, D.W. Griffith made a film called The Converts about a real jerk. The jerk, played by the great silent actor Henry B. Walthall, is among his gang of creeps and decides to pull a prank. He dresses up as a minister and goes in front of the local brothel and starts t preach, not to save souls but to make everyone feel bad.

His plan works like a charm and his jerk friends think he was hilarious. They carry him off to get drunk. The point seems to be that in a loveless, foul world, the scum floats to the top. Don’t even bother to hope.

But it’s not over. One of the hookers wasn’t in on the joke. She puts down her whiskey, walks out on her john, and goes on to a plainer, but better, life, as a home maker.

The point is that genuine grace can come from a corrupt source. It’s a point that has been debated in Christianity since the beginning and showed up in The Simpson’s episode “Lisa the Iconoclast.”

It’s interesting that Griffith’s film was anti-ironic. Today a director would shoot for what passed for irony and play it all as a joke. The Converts is completely sincere which makes it somewhat corny but much more substancial.

Posted by: Mark | July 16, 2014

Book of Questions III

Here’s the third and final set of questions from The Book of Questions:


053 – If you could use a voodoo doll to hurt whoever you wished, would you use it on anyone? If so, who?

Now that Fred Phelps is dead, I’d have to think about who, but I’d use it about as quickly as you could say “pin cushion.”

156 – Which would be worse: having to leave the country and never return, or never being able to travel more than 150 miles from where you now live?

Considering that since October 2001, the farthest I’ve been from home was Columbus, this wouldn’t be too tough for me. Since then, I don’t think I’ve been more than 40 miles from home. If I could decide which other country I would live in, I’d be all for it.

 168 – If you could wake up tomorrow in the body of someone else and assume his or her life, would you do it? If so, who would you pick? What if you’d become the real you again in a month? Or a year?

The reason I never tried wearing soft contacts is that I figure that if I did, I could never go back to hard. If I had to switch back, I don’t think I’d body swap. If it was for keeps, hello LPGA tour.

245 – If you could take a pill and eat food all day without absorbing calories or nutrition, would you? If so, is there any particular food you’d gorge on?

I’d take it even quicker than the voodoo doll. I’d eat just about everything but especially ice cream.

Posted by: Mark | July 10, 2014

What Is Art?

I use the prompt question “What Is Art?” in many classes. I’m pretty sure it’s not this:


Still I had a New Year’s resolution to create five works of art. I’ve been working on two for months until I finally gave up and threw them both out. On the fourth, I made posters with the kids of George Washington vs. King George, Captain America vs. Hitler, and Homer vs. Bin Laden.

It’s not much but I’m counting it.

Posted by: Mark | July 8, 2014

Book of Questions II

Here’s the second selection from Gregory Stock’s The Book of Questions:


021- If evidence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe were discovered, would it alter your core beliefs or sense of self? What if instead it demonstrated that we were the only intelligent life in the galaxy?

It’s odd but I’ve lost my faith in aliens. Growing up, I was sure the universe was brimming with life. Now, it seems more and more possible that we’re alone. That’s sad but it wouldn’t change my beliefs either way.


 050 – If it would have no negative impact on people’s health, would you render everyone in the world sterile except during months in which they took a cheap, readily available “fertility” pill? How much do you think birth rates would drop if conceiving a child required such a deliberate act?

I would render everyone sterile even if it had a significant impact on health. I would imagine that the more religious parts of the world would demand the fertility pills, and, since statistically they are the most likely to reproduce anyway, it wouldn’t have as much impact as hoped.


052 – While walking in the park, you see a stranger and realize with absolute certainty that if you go over and introduce yourself, the two of you will fall in love more deeply than you even imagine possible. But you also know that in six months the person will be hit by a bus and killed. Would you go over to the person or leave? Assume you know that once you decide, you’ll forget what lies ahead.

When I was young, I might have gone over. Now, I’d go away even if the stranger wasn’t doomed. I just don’t have time for that anymore.

Posted by: Mark | July 6, 2014

Salt Vampire > Khan

Just rewatched the TOS episode “The Man Trap” all the way through for the first time in 40 years or so. A couple thoughts:

Kirk was losing crew members left and right but, against expectations, none of them wore a red shirt. Three poor slobs were in blue and gold and one, engineer Barnnart, was wearing a “Starfleet utility vest.” Kirk, McCoy, and Spock were all menaced more than any red shirt. Maybe as a salt vampire, it didn’t even like the color of blood.

The salt vampire slapped Spock around like he was a Pierson Puppeteer. Humans can hold up better against Romulans or Klingons than Vulcans, and Spock was much closer to Khan than the Salt Sucker. Too bad the salt creatures went extinct before one could go against Data.

Officially the salt creatures were shape changers like Odo but that can’t be right. I remember not quite following the plot when I first saw the episode when I was about six. “What does she really look like?” I asked my dad. “Whatever you’re thinking of,” he said. “What if you think of a pig?” “Then she’ll look like a pig.” Different people looked at the vampire and saw completely different images at the same time. That’s not shape changing, that’s an illusion.

I probably spent more time on this than I needed but it’s the first episode of Star Trek that I remember. Maybe I’d have turned out normal if I hadn’t seen it.

Posted by: Mark | July 5, 2014

1,000 Miles

It’s been a slow couple of months but I finally reached 1,000 miles on the treadmill and elliptical machine. That’s the equivalent of running from here in Cincinnati to the tip of the Florida Keys. I’ve got another 825 miles for the year.

I’m far behind on weight loss but I’m hoping running helps with that.

Posted by: Mark | July 4, 2014

Please Don’t Pick Up The Sharks

Back in 1990 I worked at the zoo. Just before I started, a keeper had her arm eaten by a polar bear after she tried to feed it a grape. You’d think that would keep people from messing with the animals but there were plenty of idiots who still wanted to pet the crocodiles.

Things haven’t changed much. My niece is now working at the Newport Aquarium and an individual was upset because his son was too small to reach in the shark tank to pet the sharks. (Unlike the crocodiles at the zoo, the aquarium has a tank for visitors to pet relatively harmless sharks. Keyword being relatively.)

The guy could have lifted up his son so he could pet a shark. Or he could have thrown his son in with the sharks. Instead he did something dumber.

He grabbed a shark as it was swimming, pulled it out of the water, and held it out for his son to pet. This sounds kind of cool but these sharks are only about the size of a medium sized dog. Imagine grabbing a basset hound and holding it under water.

Father of the year seemed shocked when he was escorted out of the building.

You know one of the points of Jaws was that sharks make you afraid to go into the water. Because sharks don’t come out of the water. Or they die.

I didn’t think the public needed to be reminded about this but apparently I was wrong.

Posted by: Mark | July 2, 2014

The Medicine Cabinet

Here’s a few snippets from Nicholas Bakakar’s The Medicine Cabinet of Curiosities: An Unconventional Compendium of Health Facts and Oddities, from Asthmatic Mice to Plants that Can Kill (2009).

The human body is 62.91% hydrogen, 24.003% oxygen, 11.97% carbon, 0.58% nitrogen, 0.24% calcium, 0.14% phosphorus, 0.04% sulphur and several other elements including 0.0000000000000015259% radium (14 zeroes). That amounts to 80 billion radium atoms.

Humans and mice’s ancestors diverged 96 million years ago.

Six percent of salmonellosis cases in U.S. are linked from contact (direct or indirect) of reptiles.

Garlic causes hydrogen sulfide (found in bad breath, rotten eggs, and farts) to form in the blood. On the bright side, this improves blood flow and helps blood vessels.

Morning breath is caused by dead cells accumulating in mouth. During sleep not enough salvia is produced to clear them out. Sleeping with mouth open makes things worse.

Worldwide 421,000 cases of venomous snake bites, 20,000 of which are fatal. Half to a third are in India. About 8,000 Americans are bitten each year. Most victims are male, between 17 to 27, and were 28% likely to be drunk. 98% were on arms and hands and nearly all were from the victim trying to catch, kill, or handle the snake.

1999 – 7 deaths in U.S.
2000 – 12
2001 – 7
2002 -3
2003- 2
2004 -6

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