Testing and Nuts

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I’ve decided that postponing tests is not usually a good idea. Especially if you’re not behind in the lecture schedule. My physiology professor sent out a message last week saying that our test on Monday was being postponed to Wednesday due to many requests and his desire for us not to “have a nervous breakdown.” However, he is still going to lecture on the next unit on Monday.

I’d have preferred to take the test and get it out of the way. Now the test anxiety has another two days to build. It’s been my experience that postponing a fear-based encounter only allows the fear to grow. Not only that, but today’s lecture will be going on the following test, not an ideal situation for recall.

As for not wanting to give us a nervous breakdown, I applaud his intent; however, while his physiology is spot on, I would not say the same for his psychology. Short term anticipation (such as delaying a test by two days) only exaggerates the current emotional situation, it rarely ameliorates it.


As an antidote to this heightening anxiety, I’d like to recount something that happened in a different class. This other class is an evening class. Those of us in this class have had at least one class with the other people, and most of us have had two or three with the others. It’s been mentioned that this is probably one of the tightest cohorts in this degree program. Before class, while waiting for the others to arrive, we were discussing various and sundry things and bringing in all kinds of innuendo for the most basic and innocent of topics…bringing up memories of junior high. A giggling mood descended on the students even as the instructor called the class to order, despite the late attendance of a couple of other students.

About halfway through the class, the woman sitting next to me (one of the late arrivals) suddenly said in a voice everyone could hear: “I wish your nuts weren’t so far away.”

A brief silence of shock, then the whole room erupted in laughter. Someone across the room had been eating handfuls of mixed nuts. Someone else said, “What would your girlfriend say?” Even the instructor, possibly the most Zen man I’ve ever met, lost it at that.

I suspect it’ll take her a few weeks to live it down.

Weird Advertising

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Every now and then you see something just enough out of place to twist your mind a little. I’m not talking about something that’s obviously in the wrong place or something that is in bad taste. I’m talking about something that would make perfect sense, if it were in a slightly different place.

I live in Austin, Texas. Lots of good things about it. Also lots of bad things about it. But none of them is the point of this post. One of the grassroots marketing campaign by local businesses is the “Keep Austin Weird” campaign. You see this slogan on T-shirts, bumper stickers, buttons, coffee mugs…the list goes on. It started a few years ago in response to an increase in big box and chain stores. The whole point is that for many years, Austin has enjoyed a reputation for being a little off-kilter…especially when compared to the rest of Texas.

Austin has several bedroom communities which were originally townships in their own right. One of them, Round Rock, seems to have latched on to the “Keep Austin Weird” idea. I’ve seen a number of bumper stickers reading “Keep Round Rock a Little Less Weird Than Austin”. I admit I got a chuckle out of seeing that, and as a marketing idea, it seems to have worked. Another bedroom community, Pflugerville, has almost set itself up in opposition with a “Keep Pflugerville Normal” campaign. A little less effective, especially since it only works in relation to the “Keep Austin Weird” campaign.

With that in mind, I saw something a while back that twisted my mind a little. I was driving through Pflugerville to teach a private lesson when I saw a billboard for 7-11 convenience stores. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself; after all, every business needs to advertise. What caught my eye was the billboard’s tag-line. Normally, if you think of a 7-11 tag-line, you’ll probably come up with “Oh, thank Heaven!” Nope. Not even close. This Pflugerville billboard’s tag-line was “Around Every Weird Little Corner”.

It took me a while to realize why the billboard bothered me. The slogan was awkward and didn’t really mean anything. Then I realized it was about five miles too far northeast. It might have been a good idea. After all, they’re acknowledging (or at least trying to acknowledge) the uniqueness of Austin, play upon its citizens’ pride of where they live. (More cynically, they’re trying to piggyback on an already existing and successful marketing campaign.) Either way, putting a billboard touting “weird”ness in a community that takes pride in “Keep[ing] Pflugerville Normal” seems like such a basic error that I just had to roll my eyes. I’m not sure whether to laugh or pity the advertising group.

Yes, it’s maintained TOPA (Top of Mind Awareness), one of the major goals of any marketing campaign. Unfortunately for them, it’s not a “let’s go to 7-11” awareness, it’s now filed in my mind as “marketing campaign that brained itself coming out of the gate.”

Random Topic: The origins of knock-knock jokes

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*Warning: the facts in this post may or may not be true. Enjoy!*

What is humor? Depending on the era you’re talking about, it is: a liquid in the body that determines health and well-being, what you and/or others consider funny, or ice cream. The most common usage is, of course, the second: what is considered funny.

Literature recognizes three levels of humor: common, low, and refined. Common refers to potty humor, slapstick, and things everybody has experienced. Low humor includes things such as humorous stories, puns, and the absurd. In other words, humor that requires a certain minimal amount of thought. Refined humor requires more than minimal thought. “Jokes” in the refined humor category are not always obvious. In fact it is not unusual for humor at this level to be completely missed by those around you.

The key to the differences between the levels seems to be the amount of world knowledge and experience that is required to understand it. Common is called “common” because everyone understands the references, whether they actually find the joke or incident amusing. Low is called “low” because that is the level of education and experience necessary to “get it”. Refined is called “refined” because it refers to knowledge, experiences, and attitudes that have been distilled to such a degree that not everyone, or even most, would appreciate the humor.

Where, then, do knock-knock jokes fall on this continuum? Given that the majority of knock-knock jokes are based on puns and homonyms, I’d peg them at “low” humor. But why are they a part of our culture? Where did they come from?

The first recorded knock-knock joke was less of a formula joke, and more of an unfortunate incident involving the evolution of language. Privacy has value. This is a concept that even our cousins the neanderthals understood. The invention of a solid door revolutionized privacy. All the most up to date chiefs had one. The problem was that doors were so effective at creating privacy, they blocked or muffled sound. One chief fell victim to this muffling problem in a rather embarrassing way.

The chief’s consort at the time was a woman named Gunthag. (Don’t laugh. It translates into “Beautiful Woman”.) Unfortunately, she had a twin brother by the name of Gunthorn. (“Beautiful Man”) The chief waited one evening for a visit from Gunthag. Upon hearing a knock on his prized door, he asked “Who?” He thought he heard “Gunthag”, so he decided to surprise his consort by opening the door in the buff. What the person had actually said, though, was “Gunthorn”. That chief discovered in a rather “common” way that Gunthorn had the same taste in men that Gunthag did.

If I recall correctly, that was the same chief who invented the “peep hole”.

Cat Wars 2: Not Treachery….Stupidity.

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The agent crept forward, belly low, a slinking stalk. Ahead of her, her target. The idiotic thing didn’t twitch as she moved right up to it. How dared it hold her hair band hostage? She backed up a couple steps to provide enough space, tested her balance…POUNCE!

WET! WET! WET! The thing attacked back! It showered her with cold water. But she was content. With the water, the thing had thrown her hair band back. Taking the treasure in her mouth, she sauntered under the bed to lick herself, and her hair band, dry.

Unfortunately, this scene is fairly common. Common enough that I sleep right through it. At least, I sleep through it until Rika jumps on my chest (that is one heavy cat!), paws at my face (I don’t think she ever fully retracts her claws), and complains that she is thirsty; that somehow, the enemies from downstairs had infiltrated her territory and dumped out all her water.

When I roll over, careful to dislodge slightly extended claws from my chest, she then accuses me of treachery and demands I pay reparation IMMEDIATELY. My other cat raises her head from the ball of fluff she’s turned herself into and gives Rika a very disgusted look before burying her head again.