Random Thoughts on a Sunday Afternoon, Episode Five

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1. I have noticed an interesting pattern. Today is the third consecutive Sunday that the weather has been absolutely gorgeous despite having been less than satisfactory previously. Yesterday, it was dreary and cold and cloudy with flurries in the morning. I am in favor of snow, but ‘round these parts, early March is supposed to be springtime. I would have enjoyed the snow anyway if there had been very much of it or if it had actually stayed on the ground, but that wasn’t what happened. It wasn’t pretty or fun; it was just interesting, and anything good about it was outweighed by the annoyance of the cold. But when I woke up this morning, it was a bit warmer, and the clouds had mostly dissipated. They’re totally gone now, and the sky is blue. The view out my window isn’t nearly as pretty as it would be if there were leaves on the trees, but it still is quite nice. The birds are singing and the pale green grass reminds me of the fields of Settlers of Catan. Spellcheck tells me that Catan isn’t a real word. Silly spellcheck.

2. Just for the record, I would like to say that the people with whom I go to church are awesome people.

typos3. I really hate it when I catch typos in things I’ve already posted online. Fortunately, wordpress allows me to go back and edit things after I’ve posted them, and I frequently do post things before proofreading them, and then spend significant amounts of time making sure there aren’t any grammatical errors or typos. I didn’t do that for the one I posted last night, and now I notice that there are several mistakes. I could go back and fix them, but I have an inexplicable personal rule against editing something I posted online more than a couple hours ago. Either I have to break that rule, or those mistakes will stay there, tormenting me for all time. Actually, there’s another option. I could pretend that I did it on purpose and that it’s a game. Any grammar Nazis reading this are thereby invited to go back to my previous post (The one about the song Bohemian Rhapsody), make a list of the mistakes, and then put that list in the comments for this post. I don’t know how many there are, and you might catch some that I’ve missed every time I’ve looked. I kind of expect that nobody will actually participate in this game, but if anybody does, whoever finds the most mistakes wins. Sorry, there’s no prize, unless the satisfaction of grammatical superiority is its own reward.

Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed4. As of now, at 1:37 in the afternoon, the song going through my head is Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed. We did not sing this hymn at church today, nor did I sing it in the car on the way back. But since it’s a Lenten hymn, it is entirely appropriate for today anyway.

5. It’s a little weird how often people tell me I’m smart. While it’s true that my IQ is above average and my grades aren’t bad, it’s also true that I have difficulties telling my right from my left and am frequently too stupid to go inside when it rains. I think that the truth of the matter is just that I have a number of friends and acquaintances who are more aware of my strong points than my idiotic idiosyncrasies. But I guess I let that get to my head a little bit, because I’m kind of in the habit of considering myself to be unusually intelligent. I hope I’m not a conceited know-it-all. I don’t think I am, but that probably is one of those things that people can’t accurately judge about themselves.

6. I really hate it when I make one stupid move that loses the game. I was even thinking the right move while I did the stupid move. It was just so obvious that I was supposed to take the knight with my queen, because that knight wasn’t even protected, but instead I stupidly moved my king out of the knight’s check, and because of that, I lost my rook a couple moves later. Now I’m going to be annoyed at myself for this for the rest of the day.

chess game7. Well, that was an interesting game. And by “interesting” I mean “black really made some serious blunders there”, except that “black really made some serious blunders there” isn’t an adjective, so it doesn’t fit into the context very well. I have decided that if I was black, I would have played Nc6 in that situation. Alternatively, Be7 would have also prevented immediate checkmate. But black obviously didn’t notice either of those possibilities, because he moved his queen to a useless place and I checkmated with Qd8 in the next move. I also won the next two games, and they were both better games in the sense that no really bad mistakes were made, and so I earned those wins.

(EDIT: Not Nc6, duh. Stupid Self. It would have to be Be7.)

8. I am truly excited about the final paper I’m going to write for my postmodernism class. It’s going to be called “και ο λογος σαρξ εγενετο: Postmodernism vs. Logocentrism”. (The only problem is that I obviously want to say theological stuff in it, and I know that’s really not what the professor is looking for.) But first, I have to get through midterms. And before that, (right now, in fact) I have to do my math homework for the next two days.

Princess Bride9. A disturbing has just happened to me. I have just realized that there is a plot hole in The Princess Bride. (Inconceivable!) Two, actually, although they’re so closely related that I think they count as the same one. First, when Fezzik finds Inigo Montoya, he tells him about Vizzini’s death and the six-fingered man. It’s likely that Fezzik found Vizzini’s dead body, but how in the name of Galoompa did he find out about the six-fingered man? He never saw Count Rugen. I suppose we could imagine that they somehow crossed paths, but that doesn’t solve the second plot hole. When Prince Humperdinck turns on the torture machine and Inigo and Fezzik hear Westley’s scream, they know it’s “the man in black” because they know that his true love is marrying another. But how do they know that Princess Buttercup is his true love? They never found out who he was or why he was following them. It would have made sense for them to assume that Prince Humperdinck had sent “the man in black”.

10. Someone just followed me on tumblr who posts some really inappropriate things. I know this because, whenever someone new follows me, I always take a moment to look at their page, but that is definitely a page I won’t ever visit again. In fact, I clicked “ignore”, which is equivalent to denying the existence of this person; now I couldn’t find his page even if I looked for it. Although I am somewhat creeped out that this person followed me, I am also kind of amused, because now he’s going to be seeing Bible verses and hymn verses and quotations from Lutheran theologians on his dashboard.

11. Now that it’s gotten dark, it’s getting cold, and I feel like I ought to close my window. But I love having my window open. This is indeed a conundrum, and I do not know how to solve it. But I do know how to spell conundrum, and that, in my opinion, is an impressive feat.

Yes, I do look for every oppurtunity to make Matrix references. I ought to start looking for every oppurtunity to make Inception references, because that's an awesome movie, too.

Yes, I do look for every oppurtunity to post this image. I ought to choose a corresponding Inception image, because that’s an awesome movie, too.

12. Right now, I’m kind of having a hard time making myself do my homework and stuff. It seems like it would be a lot more entertaining to pace my room and think random thoughts about interesting things. I ought to learn several different languages and think random thoughts in different languages so that my brain can practice worthwhile things while I’m thinking random thoughts. Either that, or I need to learn how to think it a code based upon numbers. I think that it ought to be possible to convert every kind of idea into a simple mathematical expression or formula, and that this would increase the efficiency of every form of communication as well as simplifying the learning process, regardless of subject matter. Of course, the aesthetic and artistic quality of language still has value, and, as an English major, I shouldn’t dismiss it as impractical. The ideal balance would probably be to use language as a means of communication, but to use a mathematically coded thought process. Of course, then there would be a translation process involved every time I had to communicate thoughts, but I feel like that’s already the way things work in my life. This translation process would actually be easier if my thought code was mathematically based, rather than being whatever it is now. I’m really not sure what kind of code my brain uses now, but it’s very odd. I think it has multiple layers of coding, because sometimes I have some random images or numbers or emotions or phrases running around in my brain that I can’t readily connect to anything, but I have the sense that they are somehow related to reality or something akin to reality. Speaking of which, there’s something that begins with 2-1-5 in the first column that’s really important. I just can’t remember what it is, but there’s a word that has an O-I in the middle. Okay, Self, that’s enough of that. Now go do what you’re supposed to be doing right now. Whatever that is. Um, it has an A in it, and it’s yellow and light blue. Oh, yeah, calculus. Wait, no, I forgot! There’s that purple thing I have to do first!

Is it time for another Princess Bride reference now?

Is it time for another Princess Bride reference now?

13. Don’t you hate it when you start to watch an online video without intending to watch another one, but the background music is so annoying that you have to watch something better to keep from getting the wrong music stuck in your head?

14. I eagerly look forward to the coffee I shall drink tomorrow morning. Indeed, coffee is a great and wondrous thing.

This isn't from a game I played, but this is the same website. This image has become very familiar to me recently.

This isn’t from a game I played, but this is the same website. This image has become very familiar to me recently.

15. It’s getting late, which means that within a few hours, I’ll be playing Settlers of Catan.  I mean going to sleep. Because obviously, I’m not going to stay awake  until two in the morning sitting on my bed playing Settlers of Catan online. That’s not the kind of thing I would ever do. Well, actually, it is. In my life lately, there has been a very fine line between playing Settlers of Catan online and sleeping, so who knows which one will end up taking precedence tonight. (See the earlier remark about my idiocy)

Yay Snow!

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101_9788Once again, my plans have been diverted. The blog post that I began a day and a half ago is still sitting unfinished in a folder titled “Future Blog Posts” while a new and more pressing topic has presented itself to me. It snowed today, and snow changes everything. Granted, it only snowed for a couple hours, and very little snow actually accumulated on the ground. (And I missed most of it because I was in class.) In fact, even that small amount started melting immediately and now, just a few hours later, the snow is mostly gone from the ground. Fortunately, I live on the fifth floor of a building on a steep hill, so the view from my window mainly consists of trees and the tops of buildings, where there still is snow. It’s very, very beautiful. My window is wide open; I don’t care about the cold nearly as much as I care about the sight of the snow.

Snow 3Technically, this snowfall wasn’t nearly major enough to be a big deal. It’s nothing compared to the kind of snow that people who live farther north get at least a few times every single winter, and it’s nothing compared to the snowstorm that my family experienced on Christmas day. But I personally feel that this snow is due cause for excitement and obsession. For one thing, I kind of have a thing about snow. If it snows, it’s a very noteworthy occasion; that’s just the way things work in my world. In particular, it is necessary that I alert the internet to any snow that I see. But I’m not exactly unique in that way. At my college, everyone does that. This is Alabama and Alabama snow is a rarity almost as significant as if the Alabama Crimson Tide loses a football game. (The difference, of course, is that it’s good when it snows and it’s a major disappointment if Alabama loses a game.) Alabama snow happens maybe once or twice a year, and there’s never more than a couple inches. Every snowfall I have seen here in Alabama, even the tiniest of flurries, is worthy of acknowledgement. In fact, I know a number of people who automatically apply the word “blizzard” to any sighting of snow.  This particular snowfall actually is a greater than average one, even though it will be nothing but a distant memory by mid-morning tomorrow.

Snow 1The presence of snow on the ground or in the air entails certain changes in my rules of life. Basically, that means that I rewrite my to-do list if it snows, and that the revised version is more likely to include things like sitting on my bed and watching DVDs on my laptop late into the night. I’ve actually done that a number of times in the past couple of weeks, mainly because it’s been so cold and rainy that I’ve slipped into a mentality similar to that of a snow day, except without the joy and excitement. Now that it’s finally snowed in actuality, I have an excuse to act that way. Besides, I now also have an excuse to follow the dietary traditions which I associate with snowy weather.

101_9790It goes without saying that one should have hot chocolate when it snows, and this especially holds true when one lives at college where one’s mother is not present to place limits on the amount of hot chocolate one may consume or the quantity of chocolate that one should put in one’s hot chocolate. (In case my mother is reading this, or anyone else’s mother for that matter, I would like to point out that it’s called hot chocolate, not hot chocolate-water.) I take some pride in the fact that I don’t use hot chocolate mix to make my hot chocolate. I make it with cocoa powder, sugar, and hot milk. Really, hot chocolate mix is just cocoa powder, artificial sweetener, powdered dairy products, and various substances that offer no contribution to flavor and are present only because of the tacit rules of food packaging companies that all prepackaged foods must contain several ingredients that are named with long and unfamiliar words. You can get more or less the same thing just by heating up some milk, (It’s best if you actually scald it a little) and add the correct proportion of cocoa powder and sugar. (This is done by estimation, not measuring.) Then, if you want to make it extra special, you can just add some marshmallows and/or chocolate chips. This, dear readers, is how hot chocolate is to be made.

101_9793Even besides the hot chocolate rule, dietary practices should change in accordance with the weather. Basically, that’s my way of saying that I eat loads of junk food when it snows. Today, for example, I discovered that the campus store has finally restocked bagel bites, and I naturally bought a box. Those will be my supper, along with an excessive amount of Oreos and a chocolate bar. This, of course, is in addition to the aforementioned hot chocolate.

snow 4Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to post an annoying amount of snow pictures to tumblr.

Various Aspects of My Life Today

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Every now and then, generally on a Sunday afternoon, I like to open a Word document and just type random things at intervals throughout the day. Later in the evening, I then give the whole thing a very quick and cursory edit and stick it on my blog with a few pictures added. I am not sure if anyone else in the world is particularly interested in reading such random collections of stuff, but it’s fun to do, so I keep doing it anyway. Without further ado, here is a list of stuff that I felt like typing at some point between noon-ish and 8:30-ish PM this evening.

I found this online and edited it a little. It used to say Missouri, but I've been to Missouri many times and I can assure you that it is more true of Alabama.

I found this online and edited it a little. It used to say Missouri, but I’ve been to Missouri many times and I can assure you that it is more true of Alabama.

1. Alabama is such a weird place. Today’s weather feels more like an example of the proverbial April Showers than like typical mid-January weather. The temperature is high enough that I would have the windows open if it wasn’t raining, and it’s so humid that my hair is just as curly as it is on a ridiculously hot summer day. The current weather system is interestingly reminiscent of the rain that occurred during the first week of June. In fact, I am now experiencing much nostalgia regarding the beginning of last summer.

2. On the way to and from church today, I discovered that I still know all of the words to all four verses of “Today Thy Mercy Calls Us”, “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted”, and “Be Still My Soul”, the first three verses of “Salvation Unto Us Has Come” and “Soul Adorn Thyself With Gladness”,  and the first two verses of “By Grace I’m Saved”, “We All Believe in One True God,” and “Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands”, even though I haven’t sung in the car much since about late September. Ironically, despite being able to do all that singing in the car today, I still couldn’t sing in church due to the cold that I had almost two weeks ago. Also, I can’t remember all of “Christ is Arisen”, which is odd given the fact that it’s only one verse long.

No, there is no reason for this image to be here. Should there be a reason?

No, there is no reason for this image to be here. Should there be a reason?

3. When you think about it, it’s really amazing and incredible to have a body. It’s a concrete and physical representation of your entire self and identity, like an avatar in a computer game except that it’s more real. And you can do stuff with it, like walking around and like eating. I might not like everything about this physical self-container; I might wish that it had a prettier face or that it danced better, but the fact remains that it’s a pretty cool thing.

4. I feel very proud of the last couple chess games I just won. None of them were particularly interesting tactically; they mostly involved things like races to get pawns queened and slow maneuvers to chase the opponent’s king around. But now I’m sad because I just lost a game. Yes, I am typing and playing chess at the same time. I might be playing better if my attention wasn’t divided. (Update a couple minutes later: I won a game by resignation because my opponent made a really stupid mistake and lost his queen just a couple moves into the game. That blunder would have been unusually bad even for me. The moral of this story is that you should always think very carefully before moving your queen that soon.)

A picture of me and my sister. As you can probably guess, it's a rather old picture. I'm the one in pink.

A picture of me and my sister. As you can probably guess, it’s a rather old picture. I’m the one in pink.

5. It just occurred to me that last summer, when my sister and I fought a spam war, (the evidence of which can be seen here and here) this was before we used tumblr. I think that the time is coming when I should plan my next attack.

6. It’s mid-afternoon and I’m still wearing my church dress. I’m lazy and I hate changing clothes. Also, I happen to particularly like this dress. It fits me nicely and it’s comfortable, which always win major coolness points for dresses, especially dresses that still look as nice as this one does. I like the pattern, too; it’s brown and white with pink flowers. The really appealing thing about it is that, unlike most of my clothes, it doesn’t have a super low neckline or a very short skirt. I suppose I could see it as a compliment that the fashion industry assumes that anyone who wears my size would want to wear revealing clothes, but they happen to be wrong. I would prefer to dress more modestly than most clothing manufacturers allow, and this dress happens to be adequately modest.

I posted this on tumblr this morning

I posted this on tumblr this morning

7. I have two jigsaw puzzles in progress right now. I’ve been too busy to really work on them, so right now, they’re just sitting around and I put a few pieces in place every now and then. That’s not the way I like to do jigsaw puzzles; I have been known to stay up ‘till the wee hours o’ the morn to finish a puzzle that I started earlier that evening. Puzzles are fun because they’re somewhat intellectual but take up little enough mental energy that you can use that time to let your mind wander wherever it wants. And they’re metaphorical for life in that the point is to take hundreds or thousands of little pieces and put them together in a way that makes sense and allows you to see the big picture. The difference is that, in the case of a jigsaw puzzle, it really is possible to get the whole thing put together properly, and it usually doesn’t even take very long and isn’t very stressful in the meantime. Still, the metaphor is accurate enough that there’s something comforting and reassuring about accomplishing a jigsaw puzzle, particularly if you do it in a short time frame. The fact that life is significantly more complicated than jigsaw puzzles is the main reason that I decided to do two at the same time. That setup is still much simpler than real life, and it’s less fun that just focusing on one puzzle.

In progress

In progress

8. I’ve made a list of my top 100 favorite songs four times over the last three years or so, and it’s always a pretty long process. Making a list of my top 250 songs is taking forever. But it’s a great excuse to find time to listen to a lot of good music. That includes some music that I haven’t listened to since the last time I made a top 100 favorite songs list.

9. Speaking of music, I’m a little bit obsessed with Judith Durham of the 1960s Australian folk band The Seekers.  I think that she exemplified everything that a female pop singer should be. Most importantly, she had a very beautiful voice and she sang songs that I like, but besides that, she had a pretty face and dressed nicely. Also, she was married exactly once and divorced zero times, she never did drugs or got in trouble with the law as far as I know, and there was nothing even remotely provocative about her image. But mostly, I like her because she had a very beautiful voice and sang songs that I like. Examples of Judith Durham’s awesomeness can be found here and here and here and here and here and here and here. Those are about half of the songs by The Seekers that are going to be on my top 250 favorite songs list.

On days like today when there's lots of stuff I want to do and none of it involves leaving my room, I just stack everything I intend to use on my bed or desk.

On days like today when there’s lots of stuff I want to do and none of it involves leaving my room, I just stack everything I intend to use on my bed or desk.

10. I have experienced an utter lack of schedule since my car broke down on Friday. Even though it’s working again, and even though it got me to and from church just fine this morning, my life still isn’t following a predictable and controllable chain of events. Because I have obsessive-compulsive tendencies regarding my schedule, this feels like an anomaly in the space-time continuum. Note to self: get to class early tomorrow so I can ask my physics professor how to solve anomalies in the space-time continuum. If he asks what I mean, inform him that my car broke down on Friday. This should clarify matters entirely.

11. I don’t know what to make of the fact that I barely have any homework to do. It’s not that I have a problem with this situation; there are an infinite number of things that I’d rather do than homework. It’s just that I am unaccustomed to having as little homework as I’ve had this last week and a half. It’s an aberration that baffles me even while it brings me pleasure. I am content to spend the rest of the evening reading, writing, playing online games, and recording snippets of my favorite songs, but my brain tells me that this is not the way college students are supposed to live life.

In case it isn't obvious, I don't care if my pictures are relevant. Here's a random picture of Oswin from Doctor Who.

In case it isn’t obvious, I don’t care if my pictures are relevant. Here’s a random picture of Oswin from Doctor Who.

12. Here is a fun fact which my sisters told to me over Christmas break: Liquid Paper (which is a certain brand of correction fluid) was invented by the mother of Michael Nesmith, who went on to become one of the Monkees. In case anyone reading this doesn’t know who the Monkees are, The Monkees was a television show in the mid-1960s featuring a band by the same name. As a musical group, the Monkees were successful and talented enough to earn themselves the reputation of a serious band in their own right, despite the fact that the television show was anything but serious and clearly modeled after the Beatles. (To my sisters: Sorry, but it is true. I’m not criticizing them. I’m just saying that they were intended to be very, very similar to the Beatles.)

13. And now it’s time for a fun grammar fact! The contraction “ain’t” stands for “am not”, and technically is grammatically correct. Or at least, it was grammatically correct until it departed from common correct usage because it had become so prominent in common incorrect usage. It is frequently used in cases where the correct contraction is “aren’t” or “isn’t”. For example, “Ain’t those some funny-looking chickens?”  or “That one ain’t a chicken at all; I think it’s an ostrich.” But if the word “ain’t” can be correctly replaced with “am not”, it would have been grammatically acceptable. For example, “Actually, I ain’t sure if it’s an ostrich or a penguin.” On an unrelated note, I take pride in my ability to come up with brilliant examples of sentences with which to discuss grammatical points. Just kidding. I was only trying to come up with a relevant way to mention an ostrich in this blog post. Mission accomplished.

A picture of my beautiful cat that I think should go viral

A picture of my beautiful cat that I think should go viral

14. It’s raining very heavily outside, I’m feeling extremely lazy, and I’m not particularly hungry, but I feel like eating. Besides, it’s suppertime. It’s a good thing that I’m a college student and that popcorn and hot chocolate constitute a perfectly valid dinner under such conditions.

15. This popcorn has utterly failed to live up to my expectations, and I feel that my expectations were entirely justified on the grounds that the bag in which the popcorn was packaged clearly indicates that this popcorn is butter flavored. This, as it turned out, is untrue. However, I do have some cause for satisfaction, because there are notably few unpopped kernels. This is not a condition for which the popcorn or the corporation who packaged and sold the popcorn can be commended; rather, it is a sign of my own impressive popcorn popping skills.

16. I recall those days when I was a young child who had no fear of thunder and lightning, for I was brave and bold, not in general, but in regards to such phenomenon. Those days are long gone, and now I live in a world where storms are to be feared, not because of a paranoid phobia or a childish terror of vague and uncertain causes, but because I know I must drive my car tomorrow, and my brakes screech something terrible when it has just rained.

17. Once again, I am engaging in an interesting experiment where I periodically time myself attempting to memorize a string of digits acquired with a random number generator. The history of this experiment can be found in these blog posts from last summer. I find it relevant to mention this point now because I am pleased with my statistics recently. Despite the fact that my life is currently in turmoil, as indicated by other statistics regarding my quantity of sleep and my emotional state at various points throughout my daily life, my brain appears to be functioning at higher than normal efficiency. Out of the past six runs of this experiment, I have succeeded four times in memorizing a string of twenty random digits in less than a minute, holding them in my mind for more than a minute while not consciously thinking about them, and then writing them down accurately in just a couple seconds. This game does have some practical applications. Early last week, for example, I instantaneously memorized the speed of light (299, 792, 458 meters per second) without having to actually put any effort into it. Clearly, I am well on the way to turning my own brain into a robot, and I expect that the fact that this doesn’t bother me is evidence that I’m getting quite close. Now, if only I was as good at things that actually matter in real life.

I made this sign for my wall this evening. Aside from the obvious fact that I can't draw or write properly, I think it's an awesome sign.

I made this sign for my wall this evening. Aside from the obvious fact that I can’t draw or write properly, I think it’s an awesome sign.

18. In order to make hot chocolate, I microwaved some milk. It scalded a little, and when I took it out of the microwave, I observed that there was a sort of film across the surface of the milk. I lifted it, and it had the texture of wet paper. This fascinated me. I am easily fascinated.

This one is just about the weather

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When I left work at 5 PM yesterday, it was a remarkably beautiful day. The sunshine and the clouds were lovely, the temperature was unseasonably pleasant, there was a gentle breeze, and there was something in the air that somehow emphasized the fact that I had the rest of the day completely free to do whatever I felt like doing on such a summer evening. So I opened my window wide, microwaved some pizza, ate it, rearranged a few stacks of books, and then spent several hours alternatively writing science fiction and reading, with an occasional internet chess game thrown in there for good measure.

It got late, and I got tired, but I didn’t feel like calling it a day, so I decided it would be a wonderful night to do a full-length practice GRE test. (For the record, that was a bad idea. My brain doesn’t appreciate being asked to do that kind of thing after 11:00 at night.)As I finished at about 1 AM, I noticed something odd. The sky was flickering pale purple. I thought it was lightning at first, but it was unnaturally constant and predictable, and the thunder was unnaturally nonexistent. Besides, the clouds were still lovely, the temperature was still unseasonably pleasant, there was still a gentle breeze, and there was still something in the air that underlined the fact that it was one in the morning and I didn’t have to go to sleep yet because it’s summer vacation and I’m not a little kid anymore and I can do whatever I want. So I decided that I wanted to stick my head out of the window and watch the sky flicker and flash for a couple hours.

The view from my window at about 8 or 9 this morning

As it turned out, it was lightning, and it was one of the most spectacular lightning shows I’ve ever seen. About once a second, several blazes of light streaked across various parts of the sky simultaneously. Gradually, the thunder realized what was going on and decided to join in, and the wind decided it wanted to share in the fun and began to spread a presage of doom. The air turned ominously red and filled with mist. Then it began to rain. First, it was a light, misty rain, but by the time I eventually went to sleep, it was stronger. When I woke up a few hours later, it was a torrential downpour. The fog was so thick that not only could I no longer see the Birmingham skyline, I couldn’t even see across the street.

Now, it’s late morning and the rain and lightning have stopped, the fog has cleared, and the clouds are dissipating. I can see patches of blue in the sky. It’s going to be a beautiful afternoon.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics and the First Law of Thermostats

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I’m not going to pretend that I really understand much about physics, but between my high school physics book and Google, I think I know what the second law of thermodynamics is. It says that in a closed system, the temperature tends towards equilibrium, or in other words, cold stuff cools down hot stuff and hot stuff heats up cold stuff. This explains why ice melts in a glass of water, why putting food in a hot oven makes it cook, and why my parents always told me and my sister that our bedroom wouldn’t be the hottest room in the house on a warm summer day if we’d just leave the door open so that there’d be some air flow.

Technically, a room with a closed door isn’t exactly a closed system, unless the door is totally airtight. Most buildings, though, act as closed systems as long as all the doors and windows are closed. Thus, if the air conditioning is set to a certain temperature, that’s the temperature it will be in that building. Of course, depending upon various details of the building and the air conditioning system, it might not literally be the exact same temperature in the entire building. That’s not the point, though; the point is that if you set the air conditioning at a really low temperature because it’s hot outside, then it will be cold inside. Of course, the reverse applies for furnaces. If you turn the heat up really high because you’re cold, then it’ll get really hot.

It’s annoying to be in a building where the temperature is too high or low, but it’s even more annoying when the temperature outside is at the other extreme. The human body can gradually adjust itself to temperature changes, (through some method that I’m sure relates to the second law of thermodynamics somehow) but it can’t instantly adjust to a drastic temperature change. If my dorm room is about 80 degrees, the library where I work is about 70 degrees, the laundry room in my dorm is in the 60s, it’s 100 degrees outside, and it’s a zillion bajillion degrees inside my car, I’m not going to be comfortable at any of those temperatures.

Therefore, my plea to people in general is this: Don’t set the thermostat temperature so high in the winter and so low in the summer.

Summer Survival Tips

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In case anyone reading this doesn’t already know, Alabama is hot in the summer. Specifically, the high yesterday was 103 degrees, and that was pleasantly cool compared to most of last week. Besides that, it’s ridiculously humid most days, and the sun is pretty intense, too. In this kind of weather, the common conversation starters “Hi” and “How are you?” decrease in popularity as most people choose instead to begin their conversations with remarks about the temperature. Heat is also the favored topic of facebook statuses and photo captions. These conditions will apply for at least the next eight or nine weeks, and probably a while longer than that. In recognition of this fact, here are a few tips for how to survive summer weather.

1. Ice Cream

This is the kind of ice cream that awesome people eat

This is a pretty obvious one. For most of the year, ice cream is something of a special treat. It’s something you eat sometimes (but not necessarily very often) because it tastes good. During the summer, ice cream becomes much more essential, and the flavor is only one of several reasons. When it’s very hot, foods that are generally served warm lose much of their appeal. In fact, even foods that are generally served at room temperature may not seem so appetizing. In order to keep from starving, it is necessary to eat cold foods. Ice cream, of course, is the logical choice. Besides, there are few joys that compare with eating a large quantity of ice cream outside on a hot day, allowing the ice cream to soften and melt as you eat it. (One of those few joys that does compare with it is the joy of eating a moderate amount of ice cream outside on a hot day. It is clear, though, what the one must conclude after making this comparison. More ice cream is better.)

2. Sun Tea

When I was little, I didn’t like iced tea, so it’s a little ironic that the memories of sun tea have stuck with me the way they have. My family has a big glass jar with a yellow picture of the sun and a yellow plastic lid. On some summer days, particularly if it’s a special occasion, my parents will fill it with water, stick a bunch of tea bags in it, and leave it to sit in the sun, causing the water to slowly and semi-magically turn into tea. Despite the fact that I rarely drank any of that tea and didn’t really enjoy it when I did, there was something pleasant about the knowledge that there was tea brewing outside. I think it was mostly because of pleasant associations. To my subconscious mind, sun tea was connected with various other aspects of the summertime, like the patriotic music that we listened to on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, and like visiting my grandparents, whose sun tea was just like my parents’ sun tea. Now, I actually do like iced tea, and I was delighted to discover last summer that I can make sun tea on my windowsill in a little glass jar that originally had strawberry jam in it. This summer, I have been using a slightly larger jar that used to have apple butter in it. The iced tea itself isn’t any more effective at keeping one cool than ice water is, but ice water is less special, partly because it is boringly clear, and partly because it doesn’t sit on your windowsill looking very interesting. I like to think that anyone outside looking up at my tea-making window would think that I’m some kind of mad scientist doing a bizarre experiment.

3. Don’t Hide from the Heat

Besides, it’s beautiful. Why stay inside all day when outside looks like this?

Apparently, this one is a little counter-intuitive, because I have noticed that most people seem to think that the best way to handle the heat is to spend as much time as possible inside with the air conditioner set to a fairly chilly temperature. The problem with that is that anytime you do go outside, you’re not prepared for the heat. If you go outside every now and then, and if you set the temperature inside to be somewhat warmer than ideal, you adjust a little better. Of course, there’s nothing you can do to make yourself feel comfortable at ninety or a hundred or a hundred ten degrees unless you are one of the rare people who actually don’t mind heat as much as the rest of us do. Still, it’s better to be uncomfortable because of the heat than totally incapacitated by it, and letting yourself get accustomed to it can make a difference.

4. Ice Cream

Oh, I said this one already, didn’t I? Well, it’s the most important one, so it bears repeating. Eat lots of ice cream. It’s awesome.