Monday, September 21, 2009

Laws and Sausages

A well-known chestnut is "People who like laws and sausages should probably not watch them being made." These two things are associated in another way: My German class on Monday is immediately followed by my political science class.


It's long been a puzzling phenomenon to teachers that the results of their informal polls which are conducted by show of hands do not add up to 100% of the students. And these aspiring pollsters sometimes comment on what they see as a logical absurdity, with quips such as "so I guess of the fifty of you, thirty were born inside the United States, ten were born outside the United States, and the other ten... were not born?" (Example made up.)

They're just lacking a good control question. Not everyone present has agreed to participate in a show of hands survey. Not everyone might be paying attention. I think that if you want to poll your audience this way, you're better off if you start with a test question: "Raise your hand if you're willing to participate in a show of hands survey."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

war of attrition

This morning I gave my apartment's resident feline, codename Evie, a flea bath. Invasion began abruptly with the shock and awe of fully immersing a cat in water. There were few casualties on either side during this phase; regardless, Evie remained much aggrieved by the strategy employed in her liberation from the tyrannical fleas.

After coalition forces' application of shampoo and the deaths of many hostiles, my first declaration of "I think that's the last one," aka, "Mission Accomplished," turned out to be premature. As the situation deteriorated, I think that if there had been any other cats nearby, whether they actually liked fleas or not, it would not have been difficult to recruit them into joining the fleas' cause in their war against me with an appeal to moral outrage over Evie's plight.

As we were able to avoid this complication, and despite the fact that the fleas had an unfair advantage in that they were all willing to fight to the death, and I believed that our efforts would be in vain unless we removed them all, the final results were:

flea deaths from poisoning by shampoo, drowning, or bisection with tweezers:
Approximately 30.
Significant scratches inflicted on humans: 2.
Wounded feline dignities, exacerbated by ensuing shivers: 1.

Overall, the fleas sustained the most casualties, but I don't think anyone really won.