Monday, December 29, 2008

One last party

Or Philosophers' Carnival, anyway. Read now, drink later!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sometimes a tie is just a tie

I learned something interesting today. In a book on body language, underneath a picture of a man stroking his cheeks (with one hand – you know the gesture), we are informed that one of the meanings of this gesture is that "the person has been successful in an undertaking in the former Yugoslavia." I had no idea that body language could be so specific!

Okay, they probably didn't mean it that way. But the interest of this book is indeed the cross-cultural variety of meanings of various gestures. It certainly isn't the surprising amount of material which is blindingly obvious to anyone who's ever participated in an actual conversation in the USA. "Sadness is generally betrayed by the mouth, which tends to droop at the corners, so emphasizing the generally slack and unanimated appearance of the face. The lips may quiver if you are on the verge of tears." Who is this book for, anyway? Escaped androids from an MIT lab?

There's also a fair amount of what strikes me as dime-store evo-psych just-so stories. "A domineering speaker raises a forefinger and beats it up and down in an action that is symbolic of a stick (or an ape's overarm blows) pummeling an opponent into submission." Beating, okay, but why the ape? Or this one: a female courting signal is that "the woman might [look] at the man over a raised shoulder for longer than people normally look at each other," which does indeed sound seductive (imagine Keira Knightley doing it, for example), but here's the explanation: "Self-mimicry; the shoulder resembles the breast and so is sexually inviting" – which, well, I dunno.

Back to ambiguous cross-cultural gestures. The one in which the head is "jerked sharply backwards" (I think I've seen this one in the movies – "ehh!") is negative in southern Italy, as I would have expected, but it means "yes" in Ethiopia. No wonder those two countries couldn't get along! Also, the authors acknowledge that some gestures are inherently ambiguous. Under "male courtship signals," one such gesture is indicated, followed by a few "possible alternative meanings" in parentheses:
Straightening the tie (nervousness; habit; tie might need straightening).
You think??

Friday, December 19, 2008

Logic time!

This may be an internut chestnet by now (I mean, an internet chestnut), but it was new to me. There is indeed a unique solution – but in order to get it you have to help yourself to that information, which is something I find mildly annoying in logic puzzles like nurikabe and such, but there it is. Hint: that an answer choice makes the thereby completed statement true is not sufficient reason to regard it as the correct answer (see #19 for an example!). Be careful! A mistake early on means that when you run into trouble you have to start over.

HT: A math teacher blog here (he's not sure what the ultimate source is - probably Lewis Carroll or some other joker). There's an inconclusive thread on the solution here. [Update 12/22: link fixed]

1. The first question whose answer is (B) is —
(A) 1 — (B) 2 — (C) 3 — (D) 4 — (E) 5

2. The only two consecutive questions with identical answers are —
(A) 6 & 7 — (B) 7 & 8 — (C) 8 & 9 — (D) 9 & 10 — (E) 10 & 11

3. The number of questions with answer (E) is —
(A) 0 — (B) 1 — (C) 2 — (D) 3 — (E) — 4

4. The number of questions with answer (A) is —
(A) 4 — (B) 5 — (C) 6 — (D) 7 — (E) 8

5. The answer to this question is the same as the answer to question —
(A) 1 — (B) 2 — (C) 3 — (D) 4 — (E) 5

6. The answer to question 17 is —
(A) C — (B) D — (C) E — (D) none of the above — (E) all of the above

7. Alphabetically, the answer to this question and the answer to the following question are —
(A) 4 apart — (B) 3 apart — (C) 2 apart — (D) 1 apart — (E) the same

8. The number of questions whose answers are vowels is —
(A) 4 — (B) 5 — (C) 6 — (D) 7 — (E) 8

9. The next question with the same answer as this one is question —
(A) 10 — (B) 11 — (C) 12 — (D) 13 — (E) 14

10. The answer to question 16 is —
(A) D — (B) A — (C) E — (D) B — (E) C

11. The number of questions preceding this one with the answer (B) is —
(A) 0 — (B) 1 — (C) 2 — (D) 3 — (E) 4

12. The number of questions whose answer is a consonant is —
(A) an even number — (B) an odd number — (C) a perfect square — (D) a prime — (E) divisible by 5

13. The only odd numbered problem with answer (A) is —
(A) 9 — (B) 11 — (C) 13 — (D) 15 — (E) 17

14. The number of questions with answer (D) is —
(A) 6 — (B) 7 — (C) 8 — (D) 9 — (E) 10

15. The answer to question 12 is —
(A) A — (B) B — (C) C — (D) D — (E) E

16. The answer to question 10 is —
(A) D — (B) C — (C) B — (D) A — (E) E

17. The answer to question 6 is —
(A) C — (B) D — (C) E — (D) none of the above — (E) all of the above

18. The number of questions with answer A equals the number of questions with answer —
(A) B — (B) C — (C) D — (D) E — (E) none of the above

19. The answer to this question is —
(A) A — (B) B — (C) C — (D) D — (E) E

20. Standardized test : intelligence :: barometer : —
(A) temperature (only) — (B) wind velocity (only) — (C) latitude (only) — (D) longitude (only) — (E) temperature, wind velocity, latitude and longitude

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Diminishing returns?

This week's Carnival is another sparse one. End of semester, or are we all carnivaled out?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Buddha post

Brian B. on the new Buddha Machine:
I don't like the FM3 Buddha Machine, but I kind of like it, too. It's a little Chinese gadget that plays a few ambient loops from a crappy little speaker. You had to make repetitive ambient loops play on a cute gadget for people to be interested in them: they have apparently sold thousands of these little things, way more than most ambient CDs sell, and they are expensive, too. This just proves you have to put something willfully obscure into the shape of something fun and somebody will likely purchase a few of them. I think the Buddha Machine would have been a lot cooler if it were not created by artists as an objet, but instead was some kind of crappy Chinese toy gone horribly wrong. It was supposed to play the love theme from Doctor Zhivago ("Lara's Theme"), but instead the stupid thing broke in transit and just grinds out a few tones until the batteries die. It's like the last few moments of a music box as it winds down, which are, as we all know, the most melancholy moments of music, any music, no matter what music, you will ever hear. I have an old music box that plays "Jingle Bells" and when it gets down to the end, that slow slow "Jingle Bells" is just the saddest thing you've ever heard. It's putting the Christmas tree of thirty-two Christmases out to the curb at the same time, it's like every day becoming December 26th at the stroke of midnight.
Not simply an excellent writer, Brian provides us with glorious ambient mixes as well – check them out here.