Necessity is the Mother of Invention…or Maybe Laziness Is?

In a post some time ago I referenced the book Last Chance To See in which Douglas Adams does some globetrotting with a zoologist named Mark Cawardine hoping for wild sightings of various endangered species.

I loved the book, so my interest was piqued when I found a documentary on Netflix of the same name, with the same zoologist. Only this time, he’s travelling with Stephen Fry. As I find Stephen Fry to be pretty high on the entertainment scale, I watched it.

Normally, I would say books always beat television. There is a level of detail and nuance in books that, despite the visual capacity of television, always seems to be lacking in movies and TV shows. When it comes to learning about certain endangered species, however, there is something about the visual aspect that can’t be replicated with written words. After watching this documentary, I’m convinced I should have become either a zoologist or marine biologist. I’m not really sure what I was thinking with all this engineering and creative writing stuff.

Sadly, there are only six episodes in the documentary. If you were only to watch one, I recommend the last episode, Blue Whales, for shear wow factor, but if you’re more in the mood for a laugh try the second episode which includes a visit to a chimp sanctuary. There’s also the first episode, Farting Amazonian Manatee. But for now let’s talk chimps.

As we all know, thanks to popular culture on the subject, chimps are a lot like humans. In fact, Mark Cawardine admits he’s not particularly enthralled with chimps for this very reason. They can be petty and vindictive, and bully one another just like humans do. Not that other animals are always nice to each other. Far from it. But at least their brutality tends to be rooted in survival instinct rather than malevolence.

Mark seems to change his mind by the end of the episode, though, when the chimps also exhibit some of humanity’s more admirable qualities. They take orphaned chimps into their fold with great affection when the conservationists fear they will be rejected.

Maybe the cognitive ability for the good qualities comes with the capacity for the bad? We’ll leave that philosophical rabbit hole for another day.

Another tidbit of knowledge common to us all, is how ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. A certain tool or task seems impossible, or at least not worth the effort, until there is a need. Then, lo and behold, we build the tool and find the way.

In the book version of Last Chance to See, Douglas Adams has a great monologue regarding the humble beginnings and later advancements made by monkey-kind in ‘twig technology’. Advancements which led to the world we live in today. You can also hear/watch him deliver this speech on YouTube: Parrots the Universe and Everything. The entire presentation is worth your time. Douglas Adam’s at his best.

Back to television’s Last Chance to See. During Mark and Stephen’s visit with the chimps, the rise of twig technology can be seen in its early stages.

Fruit and carrots are being tossed to the chimps. There is much chatter and excitement from the chimps as they scramble to get their treats. Except, they don’t all scramble.

A carrot lands just out of the reach of one, rather large, lounging chimp. He could get up and take all of one step to get the carrot. Leaning over might even do the trick. But does the chimp do either of these things? No. He grabs a twig (already in reach of course) and uses it to retrieve the oh-so-distant carrot.

That’s right. Thanks to the affinity for tools found among primates, this chimp was saved the effort of taking one whole step to reach his food. Chimps really are a lot like humans.

Do a Little Dance

For the first time in a while I have some real writing-relevant news to share. A short story of mine Hostage was chosen by Flame Tree Publishing to be included in their upcoming Gothic Fantasy anthology Time Travel Short Stories.

The anthology is due to be published in July 2017 and will include a mixture of both new and classic time travel themed stories. This means, not only will a story of mine be found in a real book of the paper and binding variety, my writing will be alongside the likes of H.G. Wells and Mark Twain. How cool is that?

As evidence I’m not making all this up, the Flame Tree order page for the book is here. It can also be ordered through Indigo and Amazon. I have no idea how many, if any, Canadian/US stores will have hardcopy books in stock (Flame Tree Publishing is in the UK), but we all do our shopping online nowadays anyway, right (or is that just those of us who avoid taking a toddler to the store)?

This is one of those things that makes the whole writing endeavor seem a little less nuts. A feeling that will surely pass around the time I receive my next rejection. In the meantime, I’ll be dancing in the kitchen–probably the better you know me the harder time you’ll have picturing it, but the dance really happened.

Peggy Whitson Breaks the Record for Time in Space

Cool news item for the day:

Peggy Whitson, first female commander of the International Space Station, now holds the record for most time spent in space. Fifty-three of those hours were on spacewalks. Pretty awesome.

Photo from @AstroPeggy


The Power of Projection

It was pouring rain when we woke up this morning. When we woke up late this morning. It was one of those ‘oh please tell me it’s not time to get up yet’ days. At least, that’s what I was thinking. I can’t speak for Husband, but rather that hopping up after he announced the time was half an hour later than our usual start to the day, he rolled over and stayed firmly under the covers. I’m thinking we were on the same page.

Finally, we dragged our asses out of bed, got ready, got Kiddo ready, and got out the door. Did I mention it was pouring rain?

Neither of us had pressing schedules this morning (luckily), so after dropping Kiddo at daycare Husband and I went to the gym together. Instead of our usual independent workouts, we decided to play badminton. We used to play badminton or squash together fairly often, but it’s been a while. We played with no rules—other than trying to make each other run back and forth across the court as much as possible—laughed at how easily we get winded compared to our twenty-year-old selves, and by the time we left we were all smiles. Even the rain had ebbed to a light sprinkle and the sky was brightening. Yep, things were looking up.

Then Husband checked his email.

We moved to our current city in July. Then bought a house in September. Two moves in two months. That was exhausting. But it was ok, if all went according to plan it would five years before we would have to move again.

A few months later, we learned Husband was up for promotion. This is usually considered good news, but promotion usually means moving. Not such good news. However, after much discussion, it looked like we might dodge the moving bullet. Husband could get the promotion and we could stay put, at least for now. Nothing guaranteed, but as of last week things were leaning in our favour.

Which brings me back to today’s email. Things are now leaning the other way. Still nothing guaranteed, but we’re bracing ourselves for what could be a third move inside twelve months. We’ve been where we are just long enough know this is where we want to stay, and now we might have to leave after only a year. We know, on the grand scheme of all things horrible, this is not a big hit to take. Still, it sucks.

Having learned this information, Husband and I went to get something to eat. We tried to keep it lighthearted, but were unable to avoid some bitching and whining about the powers that be with our fate in their hands. Can’t they make up their minds and let us get on with our lives already?

By the time we got back in the car the rain was coming down heavy again and I was starting to think the weather was paying a little too close attention to my internal state. This must be how people end up thinking they’re the center of the universe.

Brainless Moments and Washable Crayons

In recent days I’ve had a series of brainless moments. For starters, as many grad students do, I’m currently doing some TA work (translation: assignment marking) for a CAD class. I regret agreeing to this, but that’s another story.

It is kind of funny I was assigned to the CAD class considering the CAD program I learned during my undergrad is no longer in use, and I’ve done very little computer drafting since my undergrad. It’s ok though. It turns out expertise is not required to follow a marking guide.

Anyway, as all the undergrad engineering students are required to take this class, it’s divided into four sections. The marking is split between the TAs each week. We rotate sections in case one of us is too much of a softy while another might be an asshole (or, you know, in case one of us has no idea what she’s doing). Thus, we make sure the unfairness is divvied equally among the students.

Last week, I went to the drop box to pick up the Section 1 assignments it was my turn to mark. I picked up the three folders, read them, and proceeded to bring one home. Days later, when I finally sat down to do the marking, I realized I had brought home Section 2. Crap.

Luckily for me, the TA assigned to Section 2 was happy to swap sections this week—and he must be at least as much of a procrastinator as I am because, though days had passed, there had been no query sent out regarding his missing marking. All in all, this was no big deal. What bothers me is how clearly I remember picking up the folders and deliberately reading each. How the hell did I walk away with the wrong one??

Oh well, just one of those things.

Then that night, or maybe it was the next night (wherever my focus went it took my sense of time with it), when it came time to feed the cat, I noticed her water was low. I picked up the food and water dishes, emptied them, refilled them, and put the food dish back down.

Notice what’s missing? The following morning, my husband pointed out the water bowl still sitting in the counter.

No problem you say, can’t the cat just hop up on the counter? In theory yes, and five years ago no doubt she would, but she still hasn’t figured out she can jump over the baby gate down stairs (and escape the tail grabbing hands headed her way). I think. with age, she may be losing confidence in her jumping skills. On the bright side, I think she can still reach the water in the toilet. Either way, she survived the night without her water bowl.

Make that just two of those things.

Next we have the mystery bruise I found on my leg in the shower. We’re not talking one of those thumbnail-sized, reddish marks that appear regularly on the shins of anyone who owns a coffee table (or is that just me?). This is a fist-sized deep-purple welt on my outer thigh. Aside from having zero recollection of how I got it, no matter how many times I ran through the day in my mind, it’s far too high up to blame on the coffee table.

Dinning table? Nope, also too low.

Breakfast table? It’s round.

Counter? Too high.


I even showed it too my husband and asked what in the house might be this height. He too was at a loss. Then something caught my eye:

The baby gate! I walked over to it and…yep, those knobs are exactly bruise height. I still don’t remember running into it, but I must have been running fast. Probably after a tiny human hell bent on practicing his skills on the stairs. He can navigate them pretty well if he turns around and goes down backwards, but sometimes he wants to do it the way Mom and Dad do. If only he’d tell us which method he has in mind as he barrels toward the stairs.

Ok, we have the folder mix up, the water dish, and the gate smash followed by amnesia. These mind gaps must happen in threes. I’m good to go now.

I think…

So there I was, playing with the toy trains (the tiny human was there too) when I heard my husband’s voice utter a disheartening “Oh, no.” I knew he was taking laundry out of the dryer. I didn’t really want to know what clothing-related catastrophe had occurred, but went to see what the deal was anyway.

Mysterious black streaks all over the dryer, and of course all over the clothes that were in the dryer. At first, we thought a black pen must have gone through the laundry. I was all set to be annoyed with my husband for this one since I don’t put pens in my pocket. Even if I did, I almost always use those bic four-colour pens. If it were my pen that had gone though, we’d have had a multicoloured mess on our hands. Strange though, the load seemed to consist mostly of my clothes and baby clothes. Nothing of Husband’s with pockets. Hmmm. Then I saw my grey sweater (with pockets) and it hit me.

The crayons.

Here’s the thing: Kiddo loves to scribble, as evidenced by the variety of ‘art projects’ coming home from daycare covered in crayon. I finally bought him some crayons so we could share this fun at home. Unfortunately, he also loves to eat the crayons. Thus constant vigilance is required during scribble sessions. Add to this the tendency of round wax sticks to roll and fall to the floor. They break easily, into nice bite-sized pieces I am regularly grabbing and making disappear. Sometimes into pockets.

“They are washable, maybe if I run the load again…” offers Husband.

“I guess,” I say, looking sadly over the new pair of onsies and the handmade baby blanket smeared in black, not at all convinced that washable label will hold true after baking in the dryer for forty-five minutes. But what else was there to do?

Believe it or not, the clothes came out of wash round two crayon free. Holy shit, Crayola, you’re washable crayons really are washable (no, Crayola didn’t pay me to say that, but if they offered I’d totally take the money, or a lifetime supply of free crayons). I rejoiced. And immediately went out and bought these:

The triangle-shaped crayons advertise that they promote proper grip. Yeah whatever, you had me at ‘won’t roll off the table and break into baby-bite-size bits’. You may notice, however, the yellow one is already broken. This took one day. There is no crayon shape to defend against being pushed from the table. Also, when I went to take this picture, I couldn’t find the blue one. Here’s hoping no blue surprises await me at the changing table.

I’m certain I had at least one other brainless gem to share, but can’t for the life of me remember that it was. Go figure.

Ghost in the…Toy Car?

We have this toy car in our house:

It plays music, the horn honks, and there are other, literal, bells and whistles. The sounds freaked Kiddo out at first, but now he thinks they’re great. I’ve gotten used to random honking and chirping coming from the living room.

The thing is, sometimes these sounds occur when no one has been anywhere near the toy car for hours. There are plenty of logical explanations for this. Here is what I’ve come up with so far:

1) Temporal anomalies. Push the button today, hear the sound tomorrow.

2) Ghost in the toy car. Ghost of Christmas Past, perhaps?

3) This primitive machine has acquired sentience and is expressing its displeasure at being held captive.

4) Interdimensional beings attempting to communicate.

5) This secondhand toy has a sticking spring or other mechanism, and I’ve been watching too much Supernatural. Not likely, I know, but I thought I’d throw it in the mix.

If you look closely at the photo, you may also notice our tree decorations include another toy car and a CD case (to the left of the snowman). Kiddo and I have differing tastes when it comes to Christmas decorations.

Speaking of Kiddo, he’s awake and it’s time for us to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol, my favorite Christmas movie of all time—except for Die Hard. Nothing says Christmas like Bruce Willis jumping from the top of Nakatomi Plaza with a firehose tied around his waist.

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

22 Day Push-up Challenge – Complete

And that’s it folks. 22 push-ups a day for 22 days.

22 push-ups a day for 22 days. For PTSD awareness. For more info see Day 1

I actually did my push-ups at the gym today. I’m sorry to admit the gym and I did not see much of each other over the summer. I figure with the school year officially underway it’s time to get back into working out as well. We’ll see how long that lasts.