Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Uncertainty Principle

"Heisenberg may have slept here" is written in at least three places in the library. To someone, or several someones, this is a very arresting joke. I am not sure why the joke revolves around Heisenberg possibly sleeping somewhere; I believe it would work with Heisenberg possibly doing anything, as long as it's not certain whether he did it or not, or where. (The Heisenberg's principle says you can only know the position of a particle or its rate of change, but never both at once.) This is, nevertheless, the format the joke usually takes, which I know because I checked with the internet. A better joke is the one that goes: "Heisenberg was pulled over for speeding outside of Munich. The officer asked, 'Do you know how fast you were going?' And Heisenberg said, 'No, but I know where I am.'" Thanks, internet.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Catalog Card Doodles

My job has some unusual perks. One of them is getting to see what people doodle on the old catalog cards we put out as scrap paper. Here's what I've collected in the past six months or so.

This is the first one I found. No context, no explanation, just a flamingo.

Some express universal feelings.
Everyone feels this way when they do research.
Actually, I think everyone feels this way most of the time.

Others make no particular sense.

I like the noses.

I found these all on separate days. 
By the time I found the third I was like HELLO ALREADY, JEEZ.

Psychoanalysis and the occult.

I do not know why he is saying "poop."

I found this the same day as the robot above.
Was there a late-night robot-drawing contest?

This guy turned up again several days later.
I keep hoping I'll see him again, but no luck yet.

Where are you?

I take this as a personal compliment on my job performance, 
because I try to never leave out dull pencils. 
. . . Yes, my job is deeply challenging.

There are also often six or eight cards with someone's math homework all over them. It's funny the places you come to expect to see math when you work at a university. It's just lying around everywhere. If only osmosis actually worked.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Paper Tardis

So I have this fantastic co-worker. How fantastic? The other day we discovered that someone had planned a department potluck and already invited people and her response was, "Well! It's a parfait accompli!" Hahahahahaha. For this joke alone she deserves a big thank-you, but she has also been a really great friend lately, and is also my source for new Doctor Who episodes. So I thought it would be nice to make her a Tardis-shaped card to say thanks.

As with most cards, this turned out to be a serious project. It required re-thinking several times, and in fact several of the pieces pictured below didn't even end up in the final product. But you can see generally where I was going with it.

I was working off of a picture I got from the interwebs, which I traced on the paper. Thank goodness I finally found my Exacto knife, which was hiding in plain sight for three months in spite of the fact that I searched my entire apartment several times. I would not have been able to do those windows with a box-cutter, which I have been known to resort to.

I wasn't originally planning to add as many layers as I did, but it ended up looking much more realistic with more texture. The trickiest part is gluing pieces on in the right order, because there is no ungluing. The whole time I was very very nervous I was going to do something backwards and have to start over.

I started to get kind of giddy at this point. It looks like a Tardis!

The windows are translucent paper. Most worthwhile ninety-nine cents I ever spent in my life. Also, thank goodness somebody else has recreated the instructions on the door, and the St. John's Ambulance sign, because I wouldn't have gotten them right. The St. John's Ambulance sign makes this definitively an Eleventh-Doctor tardis, because the set decorators added it back for him. For the handle and the lock, I had to use tweezers. Let us just say I do not have the hands of a surgeon.

Here's the finished product! I very nearly forgot the police box sign, because it's not like it's an identifying feature or anything. And it's a little ripply from the glue, even though I used as little as I could. But overall, I have to admit, I'm quite pleased with it. I never know how these projects are going to come out, but this one was actually better than I was hoping for.

To compare, a picture of the real tardis:

Now, if only I can figure out how to make it bigger on the inside . . .

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fat Man Made of Paper

This is a long and largely pointless story. The preparations for the Halloween party at work involved cutting about four thousand ravens out of black construction paper. To accomplish this in a timely fashion, we had a couple of raven-cutting sessions, one of which took place during a webinar. But it turned out the sound of cutting paper was too loud, so we had to stop. The webinar did not involve a picture, so once we stopped cutting, there was nothing to do but sit there and listen. Many of us confessed to each other later that we do not listen well when we are not doing anything else. In order to stay awake, I spent about twenty minutes braiding the fringe on my scarf. Then I realized there were a bunch of paper scraps in front of me. And I was so incredibly bored I started making shapes out of them. Most of them were semi-deformed faces BUT then this fat man appeared, and I thought he seemed nice, so I took him home. The end.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Inappropriate Uses - Not Just for Bacon Anymore!

When Simon P. was here, we made a very important discovery. Inappropriateness is not limited to uses of bacon! Many things are inappropriately used, and this blog is here to alert you when such uses occur. I know this will come as a great surprise to many of you, so I'll ease you in to this new concept with a bacon-related example. My friends, Matt and Adam, and I recently spotted this truck driving next to us on the highway.

Even people who find all uses of bacon appropriate have to draw a line somewhere

This is what is known as an inappropriate use of a pig in advertising. It should be clear why this use is inappropriate: this is a pig who is dancing in a belt of sausages made of its brethren. If the pig were merely encased in chocolate, then it would be a simple inappropriate use of bacon, but these people have gone much further. They have crossed a line of inappropriateness regarding pigs that it isn't about taste buds anymore. It is about MORALITY! This pig is clearly a traitor to its species, and I haven't even gone into the bizarre and upsetting ramifications of its walking on two legs. Friends, never use a pig inappropriately in advertising. It is wrong.

Simon P. and I stumbled upon many an inappropriate use during her visit here. So many that I made notes. Notes that no longer make sense to me. For example, "inappropriate use of heat - xmas lights, soap." You can tell just from these words being near each other that this is undoubtedly inappropriate, but I am not entirely clear on the context. I think it might have involved a microwave, though. The microwave, being relatively new technology, is prone to being used inappropriately, and you should always consult your sense of appropriateness carefully before using it. If you are about to cause something to explode or melt in your kitchen, you are using your microwave inappropriately. However, if you are outside and have taken the ncessary safety precautions, your risk of inappropriateness is reduced.

My list of inappropriate uses also says "sticks." I admit I am not sure what I meant by this. We did spend about half an hour surgically removing a microscopic splinter from Simon P.'s finger, so it may have come out of that gruesome experience.

You could also call this an inappropriate use of eyebrow tweezers, but we were in a pinch

When the surgery was over, the patient applied a poultice of baking soda, as advised by the internet, to draw out the remains of the splinter, which may or may not have fallen apart during removal. (It was too small to tell.) This was an appropriate use of baking soda. The patient then applied a bacon-shaped bandage to the wound, which was not appropriate at all, but the patient was probably too woozy from the anesthesia to display proper judgment. Not that Simon P. has ever displayed a reliable sense of what is and is not inappropriate . . .

FOR EXAMPLE, while we were in the carriage house at Sonnenberg, we developed a difference of opinion regarding this:

Only appropriate if you are a zombie

According to the explanation, this is a tiny, one-person carriage used in the winter to get the mail. Simon P. finds this both appropriate and practical. Why would I not agree? What is not appropriate about this? I will tell you. It's the wheels. This is an inappropriate use of wheels, because this is not a carriage. This is very obviously a coffin. It is funereally-colored, long, only fits one person, and covers that person from head to toe, narrowing at the feet. This is a coffin, and it is not appropriate to put wheels on a coffin. If you do that, you are asking for an undignified accident involving the coffin rolling merrily down a hill with you chasing after it, leaving behind a crowd of scandalized mourners, of whom at least one is going to have to help you put the body back in, because of course it is going to fall out at the bottom of the hill when the coffin hits a rock, a tree, a curb or, god help you, a passing car. And you will have to explain why, when you put wheels on it, you did not also include a seatbelt. And a horn. If I have to explain why this is not appropriate, there is no hope for you.

But there are many things that are universally inappropriate in this day and age, and Simon P. and I agreed that hair receivers are one of those things. There is a disturbingly large collection of these in the mansion at Sonnenberg, displayed openly in the upstairs hall as if they are something to be proud of. They are not! For they are inappropriate! Victorian ladies used to pull out the hair caught in their hairbrushes and collect it in these porcelain receptacles for later use, either in stuffing something or creating some kind of monstrous "toy" or "jewelry" or "artistic" "object." This is bad enough when you use your own hair. But using someone else's hair, or hair you have cut from a deceased friend or relative (wasn't putting wheels on their coffin enough of an affront?), is taking sentimentality to a grotesque level.

Hair receptacle on the left; hair "art" on the right
This is a pretty clear-cut case of inappropriate, I think, although there is one thing I should add. I went to an art exhibit recently that consisted entirely of art made of extreme materials like bones and soap and dollar bills and cereal. One piece was a wall hanging in the shape of a New Orleans shotgun house, woven out of hair. My friend and my sister and I all liked this piece. But there are two reasons it was not inappropriate: (1) It was made of hair extensions found outside a salon shortly after Hurricane Katrina, which means it was making a deliberately unsettling Statement, and (2) it was on the same wall as the painting made with menstrual blood, and everything near that painting seemed appropriate by comparison. These, evidently, are the only conditions under which the use of detatched hair is appropriate. All other uses are inappropriate. A good rule of thumb is, if you have to ask yourself, "Would I need to compare this to a painting made with human bodily fluids to make it seem appropriate?" stop what you're weaving, eating, advertising, microwaving, or attaching wheels to, because it's not appropriate.

Other inappropriate uses include the following:
Inappropriate use of a civil rights leader (a bar called Freddy D's)
Inappropriate use of dessert (ice cream in the winter)
Inappropriate use of garlic (garlic ice cream)
Inappropriate use of beets #1 (beet ice cream)
Inappropriate use of beets #2 (beets in dishes involving beans)

As you can see, one inappropriate use tends to beget another, and ice cream is a very sensitive food that can easily become inappropriate if you're not careful. Same goes for beets. And microwaves. You should be alert to situations that can become inappropriate very quickly, such as funerals and your morning hair-brushing session, and keep a close eye on advertising, which is often inappropriate even when it isn't endorsing cannibalism among helpless animals. If we all remain vigilant, we can safeguard ourselves from being influenced by these inappropriate uses and retain our sense of what is appropriate (chocolate cake, always) and what is not (usually bacon). Good luck to you.

Monday, November 07, 2011


For the two weeks before Halloween, I cut out and posted about nine hundred million ravens all over the library to advertise our annual Scare Fair. I must have formed an addiction, because on the evening of my birthday, I found myself enlisting my entire family and Simon P. to help me make a raven costume to wear to the party.

Simon P. found a fantastic deal on some kind of foamy-rubbery thing earlier in the day. It was the perfect size. After much consultation, we decided this was a decent approximation of raven wings. While my parents and I traced and cut this out, Simon P. made me an awesome beak.

Photo by Simon P.

Scare Fair is the only time of year undergrads get to go up in the tower. I was allowed to take Simon P. up before all the students got there. The first time I went up I swear my knees were shaking slightly because I had developed a sudden and unprecedented fear of heights. This time, being a bird, I felt perfectly at home.
Photo by Simon P.

The bird flapped a lot and tried to take off into the wind, but Simon P., notorious killjoy, advised strenuously against this. The bird, somewhat vexed, satisfied itself with having its picture taken a lot instead.

Photo by Simon P.

It took its wings off to go into Wegman's later, but put them on again to walk around the village. It now feels uncomfortable without them, and wears them about the house. It is so convinced that wings are the new Snuggies, it's thinking of making a second pair for guests.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Fall Flowers at Sonnenberg

While my good friend and loyal reader Simon P. was here visiting, we took a trip to Sonnenberg Gardens. I was worried it might not be so lovely at the end of October, but it absolutely was. Simon P. was terribly patient while I took multiple pictures of every third flower, especially considering how cold it was. After this, we had to spend two hours eating crepes in front of a fire to warm up, which was a terrible hardship.

I am working my way through all of Simply Crepes's berry-related menu items one by one.