Off For A Bit

Contingencies in the real world compel my absence for a while. I leave the Hall to my companions, with the understanding that you will honor its spirit and observe its customs. I will return.

Cruise control and make like a zipper

Again, from Maggie's Farm:  We are our own worst enemies in traffic.  Besides telecommuting more, two of the best things we could do to improve matters are to quit slamming on the brakes and the accelerator for short-term gain, and to stay in our soon-to-be-closed lane until the last minute, when it actually squeezes into the adjacent lane, then to observe a strict alternation of cars in merging.

The video-talk includes a cartoon with a highway sign reading, "Lanes Closed for No Apparent Reason," which reminds me of how a now-departed friend used to described the situation:  either "Shuttle drill" or "buffing the freeway."

There's some fascinating information about optical illusions in driving and the effect of images, particularly of faces or eyes, on behavior.

Marital sabotage

Focus on the Family (via Maggie's Farm) offers what seems like sensible advice for preparation for success in marriage, with five easy  mistakes to avoid:  (1) cohabitation, (2) taking on debt, (3) marrying an unbeliever, (4) avoiding counseling before or after marriage, and (5) dreaming of a soul mate.  I have to say, though, that I broke most of these rules and came out all right.  I obeyed a couple:  We never took on much debt, I guess I can say that for us, and I never really looked at things in terms of a single possible "soul mate" in the sense of one person on the planet who was my "split-apart."  Otherwise, complete failure on (1), (3), and (4).

I suspect you can get away with cohabitation and marrying unbelievers (we both were) as long as you have a deep and abiding faith in pairing up and staying paired up.  I'm not sure where we got that, but it's been a bedrock for us.  As far as counseling goes, however, my husband would be equally likely to take a year off and join and ashram after having his entire body tattooed in paisley.


Following up on Grim's color test:

Obviously both my husband and I have a good deal of color acuity, but his is on a higher plane than mine.  It's something like tone pitch acuity:   my sense of relative sound pitch is good enough to let me improvise and sing harmony, but my grasp of absolute pitch is fuzzy and intermittent.  People with real absolute pitch simply know what the tone is without hesitation, in or out of context, whether they've heard it recently or not.   My husband's color acuity is like perfect pitch: he knows the color when he sees it and continues to know it when he's not looking at it any more, whereas I have to have the two colors together in order to judge--though if I can see them together, I know the difference with confidence.

Color-blindness is a deficiency in one of the three kinds of cones in the retina, each of which specializes in a particular freqency range.  "Blindness" is perhaps not a very accurate term, because the impairment of cone function can occur all along the spectrum from barely detectable to complete; it's nothing like a simple on/off switch.  The problem with the cones is usually a sex-linked congenital condition, meaning it results from an area on the X-chromosome and therefore manifests more often in men (8% to women's 0.5%) because they haven't got a second X-chromosome to mask it.   Women would have to have the gene on both X-chromosomes in order to manifest the deficit.   Of course, they remain carriers, so a common pattern of inheritance is from grandfather to grandson.

One never knows about the evo-pop explanations for these things, but Wiki has these interesting observations to offer:
Some studies conclude that color blind people are better at penetrating certain color camouflages.  Such findings may give an evolutionary reason for the high prevalence of red–green color blindness.  And there is also a study suggesting that people with some types of color blindness can distinguish colors that people with normal color vision are not able to distinguish.
When I was a child, my sisters and I were fascinated with the little book of Ishihara color-blindness tests that were on my father's shelf.  They're available on the Internet now, of course:

Wiki says that one of the earliest color-blindness tests was created in response to the Lagerlunda train crash of 1875 in Sweden.  Because Physiologist Alarik Frithiof Holmgren suspected that the train engineer's color-blindness caused him to misinterpret a warning signal, he used skeins of dyed wool fiber to test the ability to distinguish colors.  This site discusses even earlier works dating back to the 17th century.

Here's an interesting online test that's like the one Grim posted, but with more specific diagnostic results.  I experimented with this one.   To me, there's only one way to arrange the colors, no matter how many times I do it, and apparently it agrees with the site's notion of the ideal arrangement.   I tried randomly introducing errors to see if I could understand the diagnostic tools, but I guess the errors have to fall into a standard pattern to make it work.

I was taught as a child that red-green color-blindness was just one of the possibilities, which happens to be the most common because of the likely failure of one of the three kinds of rod.  There should be two other theoretical possibilities in addition to [blue/yellow-red] a/k/a [green/red], which are: [yellow/red-blue] a/k/a [orange/blue], and [red/blue-yellow] a/k/a [purple/yellow].   This site assures me that the categories of potential dysfunction are considerably different, and that "red-green color-blindness" is something of a misnomer, though it is in fact the most common type. Taking "red-green colorblindness" as a generic term for protanopia (red-blindness), protanomaly (red- weakness), deuteranopia (green-blindness), and deuteranomaly (green-weakness), it accounts for about 99% of all color-blindness.  This downloadable book is full of interesting facts, such as the following:
-- Approximately every 500st handshake is between two colorblind people. 
-- It is almost sure (probability: 94%) that at least one member of a football team is colorblind. 
-- If you pick out 100 persons, the chance is very low (about 1.5%) that none of them is colorblind.
 If that link doesn't work, the free download can be triggered from here.

There's a possibility of gene-therapy treatment in the works.  It's said to work brilliantly in squirrel monkeys, but is still undergoing safety testing in animals before it can be tried in humans.  What would it be like suddenly to be able to detect a new range of colors?  It's reasonably well established, I take it, that some organisms are tetrachromatic; i.e., distinguish four peaks of color frequency to our three.  Some people think a certain percentage of humans are tetrachromatic.  In addition, although the normal cornea filters out UV light, people lacking a cornea reportedly can perceive the lower ranges of UV light as a separate bluish-white color.  They can see in something like a more full octave, with the frequency of the high-purple color nearly twice that of the lower-purple end of the rainbow.  Do the colors look as similar to them as high- and low-C sound to us?

Gandalf! And Gandalf Means Me!

Since I apparently don't have anything important to say this week, how about another quiz?

All the Colors

...but can you put them into proper order? It's a very difficult test. Lower scores are better.

Mr. Wolf Sends

This guy has an interesting point, which he takes a long time to reach, about the way in which our society has come to run down the dignity of work. Along the way you get to learn two ways to castrate a lamb, which some of you may already know.

He goes on to explain and apologize, sort of, in the recorded remarks here. His account of the conference is not at all flattering, and he wasn't taking it at all seriously, but apparently there was plenty of wine. I think Wolf liked the explanation better than the video.

Oh, Dear

"Aristotle for Bros" is a bad idea. However, like many bad ideas, its time has come.

Panzer rat

Last night one of my less-trained dogs (none of them is impressive) went out after dark and declined to come back to my call, preferring instead to root enthusiastically about in a densely jungly part of the garden.  We've had a cottonmouth or two hanging around near the house lately, so I wasn't about to jump in there and drag her out.  While I was standing a few feet away, wondering if I should go get a whistle or a flashlight, something burst out and ran over my feet.  What a squeal I gave, before bursting into laughter!  It was our friend the Panzer Rat, and he was a lot unhappier about the situation than I was.

As Phil Robertson says (I know, you don't watch TV and have never heard of him, so just take my word for it):  "That's what happens when you marry a yuppie woman and move to the suburbs.  You get skeert by a possum."  I didn't marry a yuppie woman--I am a yuppie woman--and I grew up in the suburbs, having moved to this semi-rural area only a few years ago.  I can't say I was terrified, but it was a definite "Yikes" moment.

(Phil's comment when a realtor tries to sell him on the joys of a new house in an upscale subdivision, adjacent to "5,000 beautiful acres":  "The problem is, someone else owns the 5,000 acres, and he put a golf-course on it.")

Incidentally, the armadillo picture reminded me strongly of a picture I hadn't seen since I was a teenager.  I remembered that it was an illustration on a poster for Ionesco's play "Rhinoceros."  I spent many a happy teenaged hour trying to reproduce that picture in pen and ink; to this day every detail of it is familiar to me.  Browsing Google images, I'm pretty sure that the poster employed this old woodcut.  Even now, looking at it makes me want to start doodling:


The soul of wit


The taxman runneth

The IRS is in full retreat from the lawsuit filed by "True the Vote" over the IRS's unconscionable obstruction of its tax-exempt status:  it has agreed to grant the requested status after an indefensible delay of three years and has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit as a result.  In other news, Lois ("I take the Fifth") Lerner is going from taking a paycheck for being more or less permanently sidelined by scandal to taking a check for retirement benefits for having been such an awful political operative for many years.

If the point of asking to dismiss the lawsuit was to avoid all that messy and embarrassing discovery, I have to wonder if Ms. Lerner's retirement isn't part of the same thinking, since it's much harder to get discovery from an ex-employee.  Can you imagine the ugly stuff that must be sitting in those files?
Instapundit points to this article in the New York Times: The Messy-Kitchen, Parking Spot War

He describes it as "Liberal Mother Syndrome".

Me, I just think the lady is stupid.

I sometimes wonder if the NYT isn't just trolling everyone with items like these, as they are bound to get all sorts of commentary on the thing.