Saturday, October 31, 2009

Darn, I wish I'd thought of this...

Although I'm not sure my husband would've gone along, and it just doesn't have the same effect if there's only one.

Kind of reminds me of a time I went to my chemistry professor's Halloween party in college. A group of his students came dressed as letters and numbers--a.k.a., the letters and numbers Sesame Street is "brought to you by". It was brilliant.

h/t Orac at Respectful Insolence

Friday, October 30, 2009

Usage tip: its vs. it's--with bonus visual aid!

So you think you've figured out how to use the apostrophe. The apostrophe is used to indicate possession and to take the place of missing letters in a contraction. No problem! You've got it down.

And then, along comes...its.

English being English, you know there has to be an exception to every rule (and several exceptions to each exception, too, in most cases). Well, its is it.

Use its to indicate that it owns something. Use it's to replace it is.

The dog carried its bone to its den.
It's a nice day for a walk.
It's got a big scar on the back of its head.
It's a zombie! Run!

The bird used newspaper in it's nest.
Its too late to watch TV tonight.
Its carrying its baby in it's mouth.
Its after your brains!

And just when I thought I had finished with The New Yorker ad fail, I get this week's issue and see this:

Friday, October 23, 2009

An open letter... the random folks I passed on my bike ride to class last night.

Dear Rockin-Out D00d:

I totally get that your music is, like, so awesome that you have to listen to it ALL THE TIME, even when you're walking somewhere. And I totally respect you for wearing earbuds so we don't all have to listen to it.

However, if you are walking on a joint walking/biking path, it would probably be a good idea to make sure your music isn't so loud that you can't hear my bell when I ring it. Or, at least, if you're going to use it to block out the pesky noises of Pittsburgh, then dude, don't walk down the middle of the path. Pick a side and stick to it. That way, when I need to pass you, I don't have to hold my breath that I might hit you (since you didn't hear the bell).

And to the loving couple,

It's great that you're taking an afternoon walk together, and the river trail is a beautiful place to do it. But please understand that A) it's a mixed-use trail, which means I as a bicyclist have as much right to the trail as you do; B) it's not a very wide trail, which means I as a bicyclist pretty much take up half of it; C) it's a lot easier for you two to walk single-file or move over than it is for me to shorten my handlebars to avoid hitting you; and D) that bell ringing behind you means "Hello, I'm riding a bicycle, and I'd like to pass you because I'm traveling faster--can you please move to one side for a couple of seconds?"

I'm glad I didn't hit either of you. And I don't begrudge you your space on the trail. But if you're going to walk side-by-side, at least, please, walk on the right instead of in the middle. That will give the rest of us plenty of space to go by you.

And finally, to the buttmunch in the car who honked at me,

Dude, get over it. Bicycles are vehicles too. It's just as illegal for me to ride on the sidewalk as it is for you. (And seriously. Have you seen some of the sidewalks around here? Do you know how much it hurts to go over uneven brick like that on a bicycle seat?!?) I'm riding as far to the right as I can. Deal with it.


On the shoulders of giants...

Thanks to Dr. Isis, my complaint about the Intel ad generated an actual response from Intel. Kelly Feller apologized both here and on Dr. Isis's blog for any offense the ad caused.

I do appreciate the apology. I am sure that the intention was not to offend. And I do respect Intel's "Rock Star" line of ads in principle; I like that they're trying to bring visibility and cachet to science and engineering. I suppose when you put together as many ads as they do, a few are bound to flop. But still--maybe this incident will reduce the chances of this particular type of flop in the future.

At any rate, thank you Dr. Isis for bringing some visibility (and for agreeing with me, even though I wear sneakers for non-running purposes), and thank you Intel for a quick and polite response.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Am I the only one...

...who finds this Intel ad (from the inside back cover of this week's The New Yorker magazine) vaguely insulting?

Because apparently the geniuses at Intel are far above such plebian activities as physical exercise. After all, really smart people are all skinny nerd-boys who subsist on junk food and chess. If you're low-brow enough to actually exercise, you wouldn't stand a chance against those "big brains" at Intel.

I know it's just an ad. But to me it propagates a false dichotomy: either you're smart and don't care about your physical wellbeing, or you're a gym rat with a brain the size of a ferret. Never mind the large number of studies that have found correlations between physical exercise and concentration, focus, and stress relief (something I'd imagine the Intel folks would know a lot about).

The ridiculous imbalance in X and Y chromosomes also bothers me. Yes, I realize that there is a big gender imbalance in Yoga classes (mostly XX) and technology R&D (mostly XY). But come on. If you're going to go to big lengths to show racial diversity (you can't tell me the two non-white d00ds are there by accident), at least show a chick in one of the games!

I'm not sure if the person in the white coat in the game on the far left is supposed to be a girl. But even if it is, come on, you couldn't pick someone with identifiable female features? Way to support even MORE smart-people stereotypes! (I.e., smart women don't look like women. We all have short hair, dress like men, and never wear makeup. Okay, that might be true for me. But I think Dr. Isis, among others, might have something to say about it.)

I think the folks who do the advertising for Intel deserve a big "congratulations" for taking great strides in making non-scientists even more likely to think that scientists find them stupid. Way to go, Intel!