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Archive for ‘The Friday Fillip’ Feature

The Friday Fillip: Well-Being

I get a really rather shameful pulse of pride when some organization releases a ranking of nations along one scale or another, showing Canada at or near the top. Shameful, for one thing, because comparisons, even at the level of nation states, are odious (and perhaps also “oderous” as Shakespeare joked). And for another thing because they’re typically based on a combination of loose judgements that would baffle even an expert in Bayseian theory.

Most recently, the OECD has published a Regional Well-Being website:

This interactive site allows you to measure well-being in your region and compare it with 300

. . . [more]
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The Friday Fillip: Sweet Dreams

Few things are as boring as someone else’s dream.

If you don’t believe me, I invite you to sample some dreams recorded as part of a research project and accessible at the DreamBank. Here’s a dream chosen at random:

A group of friends and I are standing in a long line of people waiting to enter a patriotic shrine or public monument. The group is in a rowdy mood and there is much joking and kidding. As we walk single file through an underground hallway at the entrance we notice that there are signs hanging on the walls spelling

. . . [more]
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The Friday Fillip: Shoes That Talk

Now, if shoes could tell where they’ve been
When you say you’ve been visiting a friend
Ain’t you glad?
Hey hey hey, ain’t you glad?
But ain’t you glad, glad that shoes don’t talk?
Ry Cooder, “If Things Could Talk”

Trouble is, it turns out that things can talk — in a manner of speaking. Seems that when a sound is emitted the vibrations of the air don’t rest when they’ve hit our eardrums but continue radiating out, causing, well, most everything to oscillate in sympathy. This isn’t — or shouldn’t be — exactly news to anyone, certainly anyone who’s . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Paris, the Sights, Sounds . . . and Smells

It’s still August, which means that the locals have left the city and not yet returned — a great time to visit Paris. What’s that you say? It’s just not possible at the moment for you to hop on a plane and plunk yourself down in the city of lights? Tant pis.

But the Friday Fillip to the rescue, if only virtually. Besides, this way you don’t have to exercise your execrable French and get excoriated by the experts. Our trip to la région parisienne is strictly a faute de mieux thing, requiring nothing from you other than a . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Chagrin De Merci

In the words of songwriter Charles Dumont, “Non, je ne regrette rien!” I tend to think that lamentation makes an unlovely sound and is largely a waste of time and effort. Except that I caught myself today indulging in a regret. I heard a replay of Michael Enright interviewing Jesse Winchester, a singer who died in April. Now I really like Jesse Winchester’s songs and really, really liked his performance of them. My regret? That I never wrote to tell him how much pleasure his work gave me.

Would he have cared? I suspect so. In the interview he . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Rain

“For the rain it raineth every day”

I like rain.

I’ve figured out that it allows me to escape the parental injunction to go outside and play when all I really want to do is curl up in a chair with my nose in a book. Funny how these things stick around from childhood. But they do, and for me a rainy day drops the curtain on the infinite horizon and snugs things up cosily, whether I’m out in the wet complaining about it or inside and dry.

We get plenty of rain here in Canada — though it’s not . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Ado About Achoo

Ah— ah— ah— achoo!

That’s how we sneeze. (Or fnese, as old English once had it, back when we had “fn” as an initial consonant cluster.)

If we were Polish, however, we’d sneeze “a-psik!” and if Japanese then “hakushon!” And, curious fact, if we were deaf we’d sneeze with no sound at all, revealing that the loud part of this reflex is not reflexive at all but learned.

Reflexes. Wikipedia lists nearly forty of them. They’re helpful short circuits in our neural system, sending signals to the spinal cord, whence action signals are relayed back in what’s known . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Chickens in the Air

Around my house we sometimes ask “Do chickens anticipate?”. This is a roundabout way of saying “No way,” of course. It’s one of a number of chicken questions that aim at the same thing, another being “Do chickens have lips?”. Or “Do chickens fly?”. But the answer to that last is, surprisingly, yes. Which fact makes the intro to this fillip somewhat plausible.

It’s a fillip of four puzzlers, brain teasers — simple-seeming questions that have difficult or surprising answers. And the first has to do with a truckload of chickens:

  1. A truck transporting live chickens is overweight and will
. . . [more]
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The Friday Fillip: Loco Motion

After more than a decade in one place, I’ve recently moved to a new neighbourhood — which means new eyes for what’s around me. And because it’s summer and near beaches, I’m seeing a lot of families with children, noticing, as I do every so often, how children move, how they get from point A to point B, eventually.

If there’s a low wall they walk on top of it. If the surface is relatively level, they skip. If it’s rainy, they wade straight through the middle of puddles. If there’s interesting stuff around them — and when is there . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Alpha Wolf

You have to wonder whether Stephen Wolfram was thinking of top dog when he named his . . . what shall we call it? . . . marvelous machine Wolfram|Alpha. After all, the man is not noted for his humility, though I have to say that when you look at his biography you might conclude that any immodesty on his part is merited.

I’m sure that most of you have at one time or another visited the “answer machine” that is Wolfram|Alpha. If you haven’t been there in a while, I encourage you to go again now and tour . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Binaural

Here’s a pair for your ears.

I enjoy injecting sound into the stream of fillips from time to time, because sound has no intrinsic meaning — unlike the words we wield every day — and despite or because of that it can be beautiful and intriguing.

Today you get to compose, or at least to set free a small program that will run its musical course and either fall into repetition or modulate into endless variation, rather like the Game of Life I pointed to a great many years back and that demonstrates how complexity can emerge from a very . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Surprise!

Like most of you, I’m sure, I get momentarily caught whenever I see the word “law” in something I’m reading. Much of the time it has nothing to do with our business and means to describe only some regularity, whether scientific, logical or folkloristic. That’s the way it was when I stumbled across “The Law of Unintended Consequences.” (See, e.g.,the title of this piece in the Economist.) Curiously, this “law” almost never gets framed as such, and from what I can tell amounts to nothing more than the observation that we’re not too good a predicting the future, particularly when . . . [more]

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