23 January 2012

Something-something Monday: Five Questions for You

English Wikipedia was blacked out last Wednesday in protest of the pending SOPA legislation. No doubt this prompted some of you socially responsible-type people to read up on the issue, discuss it with colleagues, and perhaps contact your congressional representative.

But that's not me. I spent the day wondering who would answer all of my important questions in a post-wikipedia apocalypse. I thirst for knowledge, and a quick look at my own browser history shows how incredibly enlightened my curiosity is: Which of the Valar created the dwarves? What can I learn about Halloween within 45 seconds that will make my web comment sound intelligent? When did Worf arrive on Deep Space Nine? Is Danica McKellar already married?

These questions, of course, have already been answered (Aulë, a vague reference to Samhain coupled with the implication that I have strong opinions about Pope Gregory III, Season Four, and, sadly, yes).

But as a contingency against future disaster, I've decided to do something of a dry run and test my ability to get answers without Wikipedia. So here's what's on my mind today:

Can you cook an egg in the oven?
Obviously, you can break open an egg and dump its innards into a cake or whatever and cook that in an oven. But what if you want a scrambled egg and, like me, don't have a stove? For that matter, what about a whole egg? Can I wrap one in aluminum foil and stick it in my toaster oven? Is that a stupid question? Was that a stupid question?

Did they wear sunglasses a thousand years ago? Why not?
I know from previous research that some form of magnifying/corrective glasses have been around since at least medieval times (I saw a bespectacled monk or something in a movie), and handheld lenses for even longer.

I'm a night owl-- I work the graveyard shift-- and even indirect sunlight bothers me. Surely the Classical-era peasants who worked overnights to stock Roman grocery stores where of similar disposition, and I can't imagine humanity just got by squinting for thousands of years.

And when you think about it, blocking out a portion of light has to be much easier than refocusing it. It would surely be worth the effort if you were planning to fight a battle in the daytime (which I know-- again, thanks to movies-- was the normal modus operandus, unless there was a fire-breathing dragon involved). I suppose an ancient general could've handed out veils, but then his soldiers would look like escapees from the nearest harem. Not very manly.

Is there something like a Hippocratic Oath for lawyers? Shouldn't there be?
By 'Hippocratic Oath', of course, I do not mean the Hippocratic Oath at all (it says something about helping whomever is in need), but the rule that says "first, do no harm". I don't know what that's called. See where I am without Wikipedia?

At any rate, there should be a #1 rule for lawyers that says "first, tell no lies". Seriously. I'm not advocating that we revoke the tradition of attorney-client privilege and expect them to reveal everything they've discussed. Rather, I want to overturn the paradigm whereby an attorney considers it his ethical duty to serve his client at the expense of right. So if a suspect tells his lawyer, "Yeah, I killed the guy. Help me get away with it", then the lawyer should say, "I recommend you confess; otherwise I'll recuse myself, you'll get a new lawyer, and you'll have to make up lies on your own without coaching."

I'm not under the delusion that all lawyers would comply. But it would be nice to at least acknowledge a professional ethic that doesn't allow them to condone, encourage, or assist with dishonesty.

What's the deal with foul balls?
A good, solid hit-- what the batter is normally attempting-- results in a line drive. Base hit.

A total whiff results in a strike.

If we apply a simple continuum, then a foul ball is the next worst thing (you barely made contact). So why does that earn you more pitches, whereas a pop fly or grounder-- resulting from better execution of the swing-- results in an out? If we played (American) football that way, then a quarterback sack would result in a loss of down with no loss of yardage, and on third down it would result in a replay. Thppp!

I realize this is more in the nature of bitching than asking questions, but sometimes that's how society moves forward. I expect Einstein was bitching about Michelson & Morley's failure to measure the ether when he came up with his clever ideas, and it took some caveman bitching about the cold to spur the invention of fire ("shut up already and stick your hand in this... happy, now?").

Seriously, how difficult is it to run a secure zoo?
Criticizing faulty realism in bad movies is like fitting fish in a barrel. But Jurassic Park is a good movie overall, and this isn't about the obvious science errors. Rather, I question whether or not a large corporation with hundreds of millions to invest, and billions at stake, could possibly fail to keep some lizards under control.

Yeah, animals are tricky. I get that. But it's the little, swarming critters that give humans problems. I'm not going to check Wikipedia (of course), but I've been to zoos, and I've seen plenty of nature shows. If you put a tiger behind steel bars, it will stay there. If you put a grizzly bear in a 20-foot deep concrete pit, it will not jump out. Lizards are much slower and significantly stupider. Have you seen the segment on Komodo Dragons in BBC's Life? Even running loose those things couldn't hurt an alert 10-year-old.

Not that I've verified that with some unwilling test subject. No. That would be wrong. The kid was eleven, and he volunteered.

And my lawyer has advised me that the above statement can be construed as hyperbole, and is therefore not incriminating, and if he knows the real truth he ain't sayin'.

So if you have any answers or clarifications (but no accusations, please), then feel free to share.



Jan Morrison said...

We've been discussing this around our home and with friends as well. Do we have retrievable memory or the ability to - gasp - think for ourselves. Here's what I think, all by myself, - the pesky questions about who played the martian on My Favourite Martian (Bill Bixby) and such like, don't matter. It simply has no bearing on your life if you can or can't remember. I am so pissed that valuable real-estate in my cortex is taken up with such drivel - for instance - do you know the name of Tom Mix's horse? No? I do - it's Tony. I've known it since my first honeymoon, forty-three years ago. Thanks to my trivia loving first husband. Don't ask. As to the other questions - find out! For the egg question - yes you can bake an egg but not in its shell. Just beat it up a bit and put it in a greased frying pan in the oven - voila! Fritatta!
Sunglasses - you've answered your own question. Not a tough technology and the aboriginals of the north (who we in Canada call the Inuit and Americans call eskimos) used various materials to keep from snow blindness.
Yes, there is a code of ethics for lawyers as there is for all professional careers and it includes what you have inferred - again - your common sense told you that.
foul balls - the first guy who owns the ball (or whatever game materials) gets to make up the rules - sense? Are you kidding. Please read Calvin and Hobbes for a clearer understanding of this - especially Calvin's treatise on 'Calvin-ball'.
Zoos - no, they can't. Nor can they make prisons that are completely escape proof without making them also cruel. For the same reasons - people need to have access and people are infalible. Oh, I just realized you were again looking at the virtual reality of the worlds created by story-tellers. ha. The jail-break in Jurassic Park is called a 'McGuffin' and is the same device used in Casablanca - giving something as a given that is ludicrous but on which the plot spins. Have to have them. And a good reason why cell phones and other instant access to people and info have seriously
f#$%*ed up the writing of novels set in this time. Yes, they have. We're all going to be forced to write historical fiction.
My, I've gone on - sorry - first comment of the day and apparently I'm garrilous on a Monday morning...

Johanna Garth said...

I had Wikipedia withdrawal too. After the blackout I think that migth be an official term ;)

Shaharizan Perez said...

My students were in an uproar when they couldn't access Wikipedia during the blackout. I have told them thousands of times to use other sites but whatever. I get tired of repeating myself.

Don't have an answer to the egg question. Sorry. I cook mine on the stove top. I suppose you can use a muffin tin in the toaster oven and make poached eggs though. :D