I know, I know. A lot is going through your mind right now as a result of reading the header for this blog.
The first thing you’re thinking to yourself is this: “The Half-Life Of Girl Guide Cookies? That sounds like the title of a Literary Fiction novel to me.” The second thing that you’re thinking is: “What the heck IS literary fiction anyway?” The third thing you’re thinking is: “Why is the featured image for this blog a water molecule and not a picture of a couple of Girl Guide Cookies?” The fourth thing you’re thinking is: “How does he know what I’m thinking? Is he psychic? Or what?” The fifth and last thing you’re thinking is: “What’s a half-life?”
All these concerns will be answered in due course. Remember: patience is a virtue.
Here we go:
Your concern about “The Half-Life Of Girl Guide Cookies” sounding like the title for a Literary Fiction novel is well-founded. Literary Fiction novels typically have somewhat cryptic, unusual titles and I think “The Half-Life Of Girl Guide Cookies” fits right in there. See below for a short list of Literary Fiction novels:
The Shape Of Water
All The Light We Cannot See Because We’re Wearing Super-Cool Designer Sunglasses
The Time Traveler’s Unpaid Parking Tickets
The Art Of House-Painting During A Polar Vortex
Charlotte’s Web Of Deception
Res Ipsum Loquitur
The Florida Man Game
The Weasel Keeper’s Linen Closet
You asked what the heck Literary Fiction was. Good question! For everyone who was asleep during English class-or whatever it’s called these days- Literary Fiction is “a term that came into common usage in the early 1960s… principally used to distinguish serious fiction (a work that claims to hold literary merit), from Genre Fiction and Popular Fiction”.
As well as having unusual – OK obscure – titles, the covers of Literary Fiction novels tend to be “arty”, and the stories tend to be more serious than other fiction. The plots can be convoluted and slow-moving. Literary Fiction is also said to offer a deeper look at the human experience which includes posting on social media 16 to 18 hours a day and sleeping 6 to 8 hours at night, plus/minus naps. This is all just another way of saying that Literary Fiction can bore the crap out of you. In fact, an entire pack of marauding rabid wolverines was once lulled to sleep in seconds flat by listening to the first few paragraphs of Moby Dick being read aloud by the Literary Critic for the Tuktoyaktuk Literary Review.
So that’s Literary Fiction in a nutshell.
What about the reason that the featured image has nothing to do with the title of this blog? Well that’s kind of like what happens in Literary Fiction novels. You sometimes don’t find out what the title of the book has to do with anything, until about page 324. And the book only has 325 pages. And sometimes you never find out. This was typical of the Pythons. If you happen to own the DVD collection of all the Monty Python TV episodes you know what I’m talking about. More often than not, the skit titles had little or nothing to do with what the skit was actually about. But this is what happens when you throw together a bunch of guys educated at places like Oxford and Cambridge. They start reading Literary Fiction and getting all deep and obscure on you.
You still haven’t remembered what a half-life is! I know this because I’m psychic. A half-life is the time it takes for half of something to disappear, either by radioactive decay, a chemical change into something else, evaporation, theft by light-fingered Borrowers, sheer carelessness or possibly mouse-nibbling.
Now that we’re clear on all this, I’m going to open my own literary window into another common human experience: cookies.
One day, three boxes of Girl Guide Cookies appeared in the lunchroom where I work. (I know what you’re thinking here. Yes, I actually work for a living.) The cookies were a gift from a mysterious unnamed benefactor. I’ll call her Tracy Marsden for the sake of argument.
I got to wondering how long it would take “Tracy’s” cookies to vanish. So in the interests of Science, and also Literary Merit, I popped into the lunchroom periodically after the cookies showed up and took note of how many cookies were still there at each check point. This is a graph of the number of cookies as a function of time:
You can see that the first thirty cookies de-materialized in about 70 minutes. So I guess you could say the half-life was 70 minutes. But if that’s true then at the end of another 70 minutes there should have been about 15 cookies left. After 210 minutes there would be 7.5 survivors huddled together. And 3.25 cookies would still be standing after 280 minutes. That didn’t happen: the remaining 30 cookies vamoosed in just another 78 minutes. Clearly these cookies were not made of Thorium or worse yet, Polonium. And there were no signs of Borrowers or mice. There was something at play here much more powerful than radioactivity, Borrowing or mouse-nibbling. I call it “furtive human guilt-snacking”.
I never saw anybody actually EAT a cookie, yet they ALL disappeared. This tells me that for two and a half hours people were loitering around near the lunchroom until the coast was clear and then furtively swooping in to eat cookies when no one was watching. This explains why the rate at which the cookies were disappearing increased after the first thirty cookies were engulfed: people started to panic.
This next graph is interesting:
It tells me that people have no strong preference for chocolate vs vanilla Girl Guide Cookies because both flavors disappeared at pretty much the same rate. This is maybe why each unopened box contains 10 chocolate and 10 vanilla cookies. But maybe I’m just over-thinking the problem here. It wouldn’t be the first time and it probably won’t be the last. I should probably just stick to building rule-based expert systems.
But this strange combination of cookies and rudimentary mathematics is making me hungry. I’m thinking maybe there are some Cuban Lunches lying around here somewhere. I think I’d better go eat them while nobody else is at home to watch me. Don’t tell Clive.
Next blog: Why we shouldn’t trust Alexa and probably also what the heck is the Florida Man Game?