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Posted in zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

What Liane Moriarty Never Wrote About (Yet)

I just finished Liane Moriarty’s latest bestselling novel: Newton Was Wrong: Apples Defy Gravity. She has been punching bestsellers out like clockwork every couple of years in case you didn’t know. This has put me right back where I was in October 2020 when I wrote a post about Blakiston’s Fish Owls. In that post I commented:

I learned about these owls from a book given to me by my son, Drew: Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save The World’s Largest Owl. I have to confess that I needed a good rebound book after finishing reading pretty much every word that Australian author Liane Moriarty has written. Owls of the Eastern Ice filled the beak as it were. Plus there were no owls in any of Ms. Moriarty’s books. Not even one. Not that I was counting.

You know what I’m talking about. You get into a certain author or a good trilogy or-God forbid-Stephen King’s nine-book Gunslinger epic series.. When you emerge out the other end you feel kind of lost, like a fish owl who has lost its mate. You just want a new, cozy literary friend to roost with.”

So. I’m on the rebound again but pleased to report that Ms. Moriarty’s not-mentioning-owls-in-any-of-her-books streak is still intact! Also intact is her uncannily impish ability to conjure up plot twists that you NEVER see coming. I mean, you know something is up, but it NEVER turns out to be what you think it will be. Dammit.

Just look at her. If that isn’t an uncannily impish expression, I don’t know what is. Full disclosure: I lied about the title of her book.

Seriously, Moriarty might be impish but she is a very honest writer whose characters think the same thoughts that all of us think but never talk about with anyone except our shrinks. Her books also center around gritty topics, including tennis, with just the right dose of compassion, incisiveness and humor. She has a wonderful knack for putting a great spin on things(!).

There are a lot of gritty topics out there, such as pandemics, the favorite sexual positions of the Vikings and whether hot water freezes faster than cold water. Seriously, when I was in high school in the mid-70’s, my father and I somehow got into a heated argument at the dinner table one night about why hockey rinks are sometimes flooded with hot water. Dad maintained that hot water freezes faster than cold water. I was dubious.

For context, my Dad knew his way around hockey rinks. He was a goalie and played on an Allan Cup-winning semi-pro Senior A hockey team (the Owen Sound Mercurys) back in the early 1950’s. The Mercs won the Cup in 1951 and were in the running in 1953 but the weird thing is that my Dad wound up facing the Kitchener Flying Dutchmen 21 games in a row in Allan Cup battle. Here’s how it happened:

The Kitchener Flying Dutchmen beat Owen Sound in the quarter-finals, going seven games and proceeding on to meet the Sudbury Wolves in the semifinals. There was this weird rule back then that in the playoffs, a defeated team’s goalie could be called up by the next opponent of the winning team, in case of injury, spite, bribery or whatever. Sudbury therefore called up my Dad who wound up facing Kitchener again. Kitchener defeated Sudbury in seven games and went on to face Penticton for the Allan Cup. Penticton called up (guess who?) my Dad, who faced Kitchener for another seven games. The Dutchmen won. You know how the saying goes: “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.”

By that time, Kitchener was so sick of my old man that even though they had won the Cup, they still complained to the powers that be and got the call-up rule stricken from the books. Or maybe it was Penticton that complained. Or Sudbury. I dunno. Somebody complained.

Fast-forwarding to rejoin that dinner table debate in the mid-70’s, I snorted into my soup or whatever at one point and started spouting off about thermodynamics, entropy, etc and how it made zero sense that hot water would freeze faster than cold water. My Dad chewed my backside pretty hard and told me to zip it because I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was.

Turns out he was right.

Maybe.

Consider this landing page for a recent Quantamagazine article penned by a fellow named Adam Mann:

One frame of a video in which ice crystals creep down over top unidentified white blobs. Pretty cool (!)

Back in 1963, Erasto Mpemba was a young Tanzanian fellow who was making a lot of ice cream in high school against heavy competition. All the boys would boil milk, mix it with sugar, let it cool and race to get it into the refrigerator freezer compartment. (Space was limited.) One day, a kid didn’t bother to boil his batch so he stuck it in the freezer at room temp. Erasto saw this and fearing there would be no more space left in the freezer, stuck his batch in without waiting for it to cool. Lo and behold, his hot batch froze faster than his rival’s cooler batch.

These and other anecdotes from older, more experienced ice cream-making acquaintances led Erasto on a voyage of discovery/experimentation which culminated in 1969 with him publishing a paper in collaboration with Donald Osborne a physicist at University College in Dar es Salaam. Here is the citation: Cool. E B Mpemba and D G Osborne 1969 Phys. Educ. 4 172. If you want to read it yourself, here’s a link to the paper: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/0031-9120/4/3/312.

And here’s a graph from that paper, if you don’t believe me.

They liked tall, thin graphs back in the 1960’s for some reason. But then again, people also liked Twiggy, the iconic, skinny supermodel.

Mpemba went on to pursue a career in Wildlife Management and later published a paper about how to weigh 25,000 penguins using aerial photography. Actually, I’m lying about that. He didn’t study penguins as far as I know, because although Namibia has them, Tanzania is devoid of penguins and probably Fish Owls, now that you mention it.

Other researchers located in Antarctica did, in fact, weigh a waddle of penguins via aerial photography. If you, too, want to learn about penguin waddle-weighing, you can read about it here: https://lateralthinkingdepartment.com/2020/08/22/how-to-weigh-25000-penguins-simultaneously-with-apologies-to-dr-seuss/

In any case, the curiousity of Erasto Mpemba impelled other physicists to continue delving into the “hot water freezes faster than cool water” controversy. Sixty years later, the physicists are still arguing. Physicists like to argue.

Turns out that sticking a container of hot liquid into a freezer is a highly unstable, nonequilibrium situation. This means that all the standard equations that physicists know and love don’t apply because the temperature is not the same throughout the whole system and is changing constantly but not smoothly. This is neatly summarized by Mann: “If nothing else, the theoretical and experimental work on the Mpemba effect has started giving physicists a handhold into nonequilibrium systems such as arguments with their fathers, that they otherwise lack.“

Sadly, my Dad passed in 2016 but he would have loved to talk about this whole business. He had a phenomenal memory and probably remembered the conversation as vividly as I do.

In closing, and since the average Australian know very little about hockey in general and ice in particular, I hereby challenge Liane Moriarty to write a hockey-based bestseller with a plot that eventually takes an extremely clever twist somehow based on the Mpemba effect and also deals with the gritty, ages-old saga of a young man striving to find his independence by rebelling against his father. Talk about an unstable, nonequilibrium situation!

That should keep her busy for at least a couple of years.

Posted in zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

Wishful Thinking

Somehow two months has elapsed since the last post. I wish I knew how that happened. Actually, there are a lot of things I’ve been wishing for lately and I feel like I should share them. This is actually a great tactic when you have a bunch of random things that have cropped up and you happen to be writing a post but don’t have an overarching theme to write about. I feel like overarching themes are also overrated anyway. So let’s get started.

One of the things I wish I’d known sooner is when to use “a while” and when to use “awhile”.

if you don’t want To find out when to use “a while’ and when to use ”awhile’, stop reading now
Posted in zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

Brains Are Overrated

Judge: Dr. Gillson, please explain to the Court why your last post appeared over a month ago. How do you expect to keep your following in the face of such an erratic schedule?

Me: I apologize Your Honor. There are just too many things going on these days. I can’t seem to focus.

Judge: Please clarify. You can’t seem to focus or you actually can’t focus?

Me: I actually can’t focus. What is Twitter going to look like with Musk at the helm? What will happen in the Ukraine? What about current and impending shortages in just about everything including common sense? And why won’t my dog, Sarge, make friends with his talk-buttons? Not only that, he recently nibbled the white tuft (aka “flag”) on his tail down to its nub for the second time. Anyway, I’m swamped.

Judge: Whatever. All that aside, I find you guilty of lacking clarity of speech and I hereby sentence you to get on with this post. And I’m sorry to hear about Sarge’s tuft. Why don’t you try some more niacinamide?

TO find out what this post seems to be about, keep reading
Posted in zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

Hair Of The Dog…

I was sitting here trying to think of something to write about this month when I suddenly started puzzling over the structures of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (aka NAD) and nicotinamide riboside (aka NR), a couple of molecules people routinely ingest for purposes including but not limited to hair regrowth and anti-aging. I swear on Vidal Sassoon’s hair clippers that I am not making this up.

I don’t know why NAD and NR popped into my head. But I thought ‘maybe I can work this into a column’. After that I thought, ‘well first of all, almost nobody knows what a “column” is any more because columns are what people write in newspapers and secondly almost nobody knows what a newspaper is any more.’ Finally I thought, ‘What the heck? This is a totally stupid, boring idea.’ In fact, it was so boring that I fell asleep at the keyboard. But while I was sleeping I had this dream…

to find out what my dream was about, keep reading
Posted in zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

Ode To Ogden Nash

My last post ended with an open question: Who is Ogden Nash? His name came up in one of the lines in the poem that was featured in that post : “…Rugged individualists trying to mimic Ogden Nash, the only difference being: he traded words for cash…”.

The Department of Rugged Individualists, consisting primarily of me and Spencer (a stuffed plush seal) hates leaving alert readers dangling, so as threatened, I’ll give you the scoop on Ogden Nash. But first, another poem:

Spencer
If he weren’t stuffed with foam,
Spencer would be denser.

A great way to learn MORE about Ogden nash would be to keep reading
Posted in zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

What Da Heck?

I was hanging out with my soon-to-be four year old granddaughter recently and at a couple of points during the visit, when she was confronted by something novel or funny , she earnestly exclaimed, “What da heck?” I snorted back a guffaw the first time I heard her say it, trying to guess which immediate/extended family member she could have picked it up from. A parent? A grandparent? An aunt or uncle? And could this person possibly have a propensity for the French language?

Fast forward a few days to where I caught myself saying “What da heck?” when I ran across stuff that was novel, puzzling or just plain goofy. This is the great thing about little kids: they remind you that the world can be a pretty fascinating and amusing place if you just start paying attention and look at the world through their eyes.

PAY attention and keep reading
Posted in Dave Barry, zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

All I Want For Christmas Is My Two AAC Devices (with apology to Donald Yetter Gardner)

OK-admit it. You reflexively started to softly sing “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” but substituted “AAC devices” for “Front Teeth” and now it’s stuck in your head. You also said, “What IS an AAC device even?”. Then you wondered who Donald Yetter Gardner is. Now you’re wondering how I know that you thought/did all this stuff and you’re also wondering if maybe I’m psychic. Yes, I am psychic. Tell no one. I’ll know if you do.

CONTINUE READING TO FIND OUT WHO DONALD YETTER GARDNER IS
Posted in Dave Barry, zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

Turkey Tails

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving and being Canadian (Motto: Thanksgiving is NOT celebrated on Thursday up here) I feel compelled to relate some tales about the happy times I spent on a turkey farm with my cousin “Harold” (name changed to protect the innocent).

Ed. note: The author has nothing against the name Harold. Harold is an excellent moniker, mostly because it can be shortened to Hal. And who among us doesn’t remember the fact that rugged test pilot Hal Jordan was eventually recruited to become the intergalactic superhero Green Lantern. Hal, equipped with his impressive array of green weaponry, was charged with protecting all of Cosmic Sector 2814, including but not limited to the State of Nevada.

TO FIND OUT WHY THE STATE oF NEVADA is specifically mentioned, KEEP READING
Posted in Dave Barry, zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

Erratic Behavior: How I Lost A 500-ton Boulder (and other stories)

OK, how is everybody doing? I’m hanging in there thank you very much. The last couple of months have been action-packed and since I don’t have anything else to write about currently except the trend to go to wider skis and just kind of GS the runs instead of doing a bunch of nice linked turns, I’ll tell you about my July and August.

My ski epiphany was in March anyway so it’s old news and I haven’t made any turns since then, so I’ll leave all that for another day. Besides, where would I have gone skiing this summer without flying there and probably winding up duct-taped to my seat at some point? Life is complicated these days.

Anyway…where was I? Yes! Two months ago I found a 500-ton boulder that I had managed to lose at some point in the last forty years. We got a puppy five weeks ago. Shortly after that I had an unusual experience while unicycling. While all this was going on, I also began to learn some self-defense techniques. Last but not least we got a new vacuum cleaner. So basically, I’ve been swamped.

My challenge now is to weave all these threads into a semi-coherent narrative. Don’t hold your breath though.

Stop holding your breath and read more
Posted in Dave Barry, zany, offbeat, somewhat silly humor

Attack Of The Giant Suck-Lump

Spoiler Alert:

This brief post has nothing to do with alien monsters. It may have something to do with Dave Barry and his dog Lucy. Time will tell.

cover photo of Dave Barry's book "Lessons From Lucy"

The topic of this post is actually a freshly-minted canine classification known as the Giant Suck-Lump. The Suck-Lump moniker was invented in my back yard two days ago by my daughter Alex. Last summer I thought she might also have invented another canine classification: the Giant Floof. However, in the course of due diligence, I Googled “giant floof” and found this photo:

So I have to admit, I feel like the Giant Floof might already have been a thing last summer before Alex mentioned it. You never know though. Newton and Leibniz are reputed to have independently discovered Calculus a few centuries ago. So Alex may have independently coined Giant Floof. Questions remain though. Is that a smallish man surrounded by smallish furniture hoisting an average-sized dog or a large, burly man in a room full of normal-sized furniture hoisting a freakishly large dog? Is that just one of those camera angle tricks? Sometimes I think that searching the Internet raises more questions than it answers.

Thankfully, the provenance of the Giant Suck-Lump (GSL) is undisputed. I was there.

The GSL is noted primarily for its ability to elicit a stream of baby talk from even the most stoic individual-male or female- and also for its tendency to induce a state of bliss, calmness and possibly profound hypotension.

young woman with blissful expression cuddling Bernese Mountain dog
Alex, apparently normotensive and blissfully cuddling a freshly-captured Giant Suck-Lump

This Suck-Lump is technically a 9-week old Bernese Mountain Dog puppy named Sarge. He has frightening large paws. Frankly speaking, he is a huge suck. There’s no other way to put it. In the two days since he came to live with my wife Jeanette and me he has rarely strayed more than 15-20 cM away from either one of us. In fact his right ear is touching my left shoe as I type this.

The following photo shows Jeanette and Sarge on the day he was extracted from the Suck-Lumpaculum where he was hatched.

smiling woman holding Bernese Mountain Dog puppy
Jeanette blissfully holding Sarge

Did I mention that Suck-Lumps have frighteningly large paws?

Our Suck-Lump likes to sleep with his head underneath something, this case, a table.

photo of puppy sleeping with its head under a table

Here he is, fresh from a fierce battle with his current nemesis, the dreaded Alberta forked tongue lizard-snake.

Bernese Mountain Dog puppy asleep on its back

Below we have our Suck-Lump, fully recovered and proudly dominating his vanquished foe.

puppy fresh from battling an Alberta lizard-snake

And finally, here are Dave and Lucy, looking somewhat perplexed:

photo of Dave Barry and his dog Lucy
Dave: What the heck is an Alberta lizard-snake Lucy? And where is Alberta anyway?
Lucy: Great questions Dave. I’ll have to circle back to you on this.