Random Thursday: Random Awesome

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content

The only thing this stuff has in common is that it made me go, “Whoa!”

Join me?


 Need a Birthday Cake for a Hoopy Frood?

Don’t panic.


Unless you don’t know what a hoopy frood is, or why towels are important.

Then you can panic a little, until you can get to a library or bookstore and ask where they’re keeping the Douglas Adams books.

Read. Enjoy. Repeat.

You can thank me with cake.

(Thanks, caitlin!)


One Does Not Simply Listen . . .


Can you imagine the roadies for this group?

“Thou shall not (without a backstage) pass!”

(Thanks, Kev! Force liquids,* dude—you’ll make it.)


Have the Holiday Blues?

Have 49 seconds of mongooses playing in a ballpit.

You’re welcome.

(Thanks, Watson—this was timely, believe me!)


Physics Pwn

Schrodinger gets pawnd

Hairballs may not have mass, but they do have squish . . .

(Thanks, Paula!)


Have Yourself a Minor Little Christmas

Chase Holfelder likes to arrange well-known songs in major keys to minor keys.
He’s really good at it.
I think I like this one better than the original, which I find a bit wistful, anyway.  The minor key just makes the tune fit.
*And by  “liquids”, I don’t mean “bourbon”.  It’s “feed a fever”, not “get it drunk and hope the hangover kills it.”  Sorry.

When Sally-Anne met Sunny-Jane

Whenever I want to have my worldview adjusted in weird ways without going offline, I turn Michael Steven’s Vsauce Channel, which is dedicated to turning its viewers’ brains inside out.

The other day, I was watching a Vsauce video called “Is Your Red the Same as My Red?” which starts out with the idea that we may never know if the color each of us was taught to call red is the same color everyone else was taught to call red, and moves into the idea that animals, even higher primates, don’t appear to have a Theory of Mind—an understanding that other beings have separate minds and may have knowledge that differs from one’s own.

Apparently, we know that primates don’t have a Theory of Mind because even the ones who have learned to communicate with us, through sign language, never ask questions about what humans might know that apes don’t.  They assume that their knowledge base is ours.

And up until the age or four or so, human beings don’t have a Theory of Mind, either.

It was explained that this doesn’t mean they don’t have curiosity, which kept me from crying foul over the thousands of questions my kids asked between the moment they could say,”Why, Mommy?” and the moment they stopped paying attention to my answers.

But they don’t quite get Point of View.

One test for Theory of Mind is called the Sally-Anne Test.

You can watch the video’s example here, but basically, the test subject is told a story with pictures.


Sally and Anne are in a room with a box and a basket.  They also have a cookie.

Sally puts the cookie in the box and leaves the room.

Anne moves the cookie into the basket.

Sally comes back into the room.

The test subject is then asked, “Where will Sally look for the cookie?”

Pre-Kindergarten test subjects will usually answer that Sally will look in the basket, because they know the cookie is in the basket, and while they also know that Sally left the room, they don’t make the connection that Sally’s world view and knowledge base will be different from theirs.

I’m  fascinated by this.

It explains why my kids assumed I knew everything that happened at day care, much to our mutual frustration—and why they’re now convinced/hopeful/praying I won’t know anything that they’re up to (or not up to) at school, though that’s a slightly different kind of disconnect.

But Theory of Mind is also crucial to effective writing:  readers only have the knowledge that we give them in the story, but they don’t always have the knowledge that the characters do.  Or vice versa.  And the characters can’t know anything unless they’ve been told or were present or are telepathic.

Writers have to keep track of their cookies.

And so, as it turns out, do parents.

“Hey, kids,” I said.  “C’mere, I want to show you something.”

They did, and I gave them the test.

brownie“So where,” I said, “would Sally look for the cookie?”

“The box,” said Jane, who is eleven.

“The basket,” said Sunny, who is six.

“Why?” I asked, suddenly concerned about Sunny’s development.

“Because that’s where Sally left the cookie,” Jane said, rolling her eyes at me.

“Because she was looking through the doorway and the box didn’t have a lid,” Sunny said.  “And the basket had holes, so she could see the cookie.”

“She wasn’t looking through the doorway,” I said.  “The box had a lid, and the basket didn’t have holes.”

“Oh.  You didn’t say that. My basket has holes.  You can see right through the weavy stuff.”

“Okay, but that isn’t part of the test—”

“Maybe Sally didn’t trust Anne,” Jane said thoughtfully tapping her finger on the table.  “And that’s why she could’ve been looking through the doorway.”

“She wasn’t looking—”

“You don’t know that, Mom.  She did put the cookie away before she left, like she knew Anne would take it.  And maybe she saw Anne smiling when she came back and just knew.  Like I know when Sunny takes my stuff.”

Sunny nodded.  “Sally should have tooken it with her.  I bet she looked in the basket next and got mad.”  She blinked.  “Hey!  I didn’t take your stuff.”

“Not now you didn’t.  But you do.  You’re always trying to take my—”

“I do not, Janie!  Mommy?”

“You do, too.”

“I don’t. Mommy?”

I rubbed my eyes.  “Uh-huh?”

“Can I have a cookie?”

“Me, too!” Jane said.  “Peanut butter!”

Sunny wrinkled her nose.  “Yuck.”


Image of Sally and Anne from “Is your Red the Same as My Red,” which is owned by Vsauce and its brilliant and non-litigious creator Michael Stevens.

Random Thursday: Random Ducks, Forensic Vodka, and Improvisational Walking

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content.

I’m pretty sure that all of today’s offerings can  be blamed credited to my SIL, Watson, who sends me fun stuff on a daily basis, a surprising percentage of which I can share on a public blog that my parents read.

I tend to e-mail the rest of it to my folks anyway, but we have a family delusion of propriety to uphold.  I think.  It was around here, someplace . . .


PA Snow

I’m several states away from Pennsylvania. but this looks familiar . . .

Oh, right. My driveway.


Olympian Improv

Wait for it . . .

You know, if I did this and found out it wasn’t true, I think I’d feel the same sense of pride and accomplishment.

I haven’t run three whole blocks in years.

The full story—about the torch run, not my abysmal level of physical fitness—is here.


Another Use for Vodka

As some of you might already know—and I’d prefer it if you kept the details to yourselves, please—Crystal Head is my favorite vodka.

Not just because of the bottle . . . okay,  mostly because of the bottle.


A forensic scientist named Nigel thought the bottle was pretty cool, too, and being a forensic scientist, he was able to do a little more than just look at it and say, “Cool.”

He started constructing Crystal Head Man:


There are several stages of the process shown here, if you like that sort of thing—I do, so you know I won’t judge—and the results are exactly what you might expect from a man whose very brain is made of distilled alcohol.




Duck, Duck . . . Duck?

Duck Duck Duck

The fabulous indyclause also sent me this one a few days ago—
I think it was meant to be subtle(ish) encouragement for a project I’m contemplating.

It’s  worked about twenty-three hundred words worth so far.

Because indy’s just that good.


Time Suck Walking

You won’t want to watch this all the way through, but you will.

Oh, yes.  You will.

Random Thursday: Special Snowflakes and Homicidal Ice Heaves

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content.

This isn’t really random—there’s a definite theme. But that’s not my fault.

As found on xkcd, ’cause I’m not looking at any more white stuff unless I absolutely have to.

But y’all go ahead.

Let me know if the second from the left in the second row or the first one in the last row shows up, would you?

I have questions.


As if the snow and sub-freezing temperatures weren’t enough

Now the ice is coming to get us.

The longer version is here.  

It sounds like a steam engine made of glass.


Move Over . . .

Move Over

Isn’t this in the Book of Revelations, somewhere ?

“And lo, the  gato shall hibernate with the gecko . . .”

(Thanks, Watson!)


The Time Suck with No Clean Up

Okay.  I admit it.  I like some snowflakes.

The indoor, paper kind.

Especially when I don’t have to drag out the vacuum to pick up all the schnibbly* bits left over.



You know you want to.


ALL Snowflakes are Special

Favorite description of an obsessive science nerd ever starts around 1:18.

This is fascinating stuff . . . but the second time I watched it, I noticed that Joe—who ranks high in my list of favorite YouTube science channel announcers—isn’t blinking.   His eyebrows are working overtime, but he doesn’t actually blink until 5:07.

I realize knowing this—and/or confirming it with a third run-through—puts me at a solid seven on the Wilson Bentley scale . . . but that just makes me an extra special snowflake, amiright?

A Periodic Earworm

We haven’t had a Science Moment around here for a while, because my attention span has the half-Franciumlife of a francium isotope.

I think . . . I kind of lost track.

This song, however, is guaranteed to stick around your temporal lobe at roughly the same longevity as tellurium-128.

You can thank me later.