(I work as a publisher. I get a visit from a very distraught client.)
Client: “Excuse me. I’m really sorry, but I was told you were the head publisher?”
Me: “Yes, I am. How can I help?”
Client: “Well, I’ve been writing stories my whole life. I even written a couple for my children that they love. I’m really good at it and it’s a great passion of mine. It’s my life long dream to make a living as a writer, but nobody will even look at my novel because I’m dyslexic. I know the spelling and grammar isn’t great but I’ve had people spell-check it for me. I just need someone to give me a chance. I know my book will be a hit.”
Me: “I’m so sorry to hear how you’ve been treated. Send me the first few pages of your book, the best scene in the book, preferably around the middle, and the last few pages, and I’ll give them a read.”
(The client thanks me, places the ENTIRE book on my desk, and then leaves. I start to read it later that day, only to discover that not only is the spelling and grammar awful, but so is the book itself. I continue reading much more than I usually do, wanting to believe this man was truly the great writer he claimed to be. The story gets worse and worse the more I read. I read a couple of pages in the middle. Then I skip to the end, only to discover he ended the book with the most despised sentence in the literary world, ‘and it was all a dream.’ Needless to say I wrote him a rejection letter. A few days later I get a message from the receptionist, who is in tears, claiming an enraged man is here, screaming about suing us. I told her to let him in. It was our dyslexic client.)
Client: “What is this?! You told me you were going to publish my book!”
Me: “No, sir. I said I was going to read your book, which I did. I’m sorry but I do not believe it is suitable to be published.”
Client: “That’s bull-s***. My book is brilliant. You have to publish it. There’s no good reason not to.”
Me: “Sir, I’m sorry, but the book’s no good. I can’t publish this.”
Client: “Oh yeah? Name me five reasons why you can’t publish it.”
Client: “Yeah, five. Otherwise there’s no reason your editing team can’t sort it out.”
Me: “Okay. First of all, there is next to no characterisation.”
Client: “What the f*** does that mean?”
Me: “It means that your characters don’t develop in any way.”
Client: “That’s complete bull-s***. What else?”
Me: “Your main character is suppose to be the protagonist and yet has no fatal flaw. He’s perfect.”
Client: “Main characters are supposed to be perfect. That’s why people love them. Hamlet didn’t have a ‘fatal flaw’.”
Me: “Actually, he did. He procrastinated and it resulted in many dying.”
Client: “You don’t know what you’re talking about. And that’s only two.”
Me: “I’m not finished. Three, I know you are dyslexic but almost every sentence needs to be edited. That is too much work for our editor and financially would not be beneficial for the company. Four, you not only use abbreviations in the narration like BTW for ‘by the way’, but you also use words that don’t exist.”
Client: “Like what?”
Me: “Like the word ET. It does not exist.”
Client: “Yeah, it does. I ‘et’ an apple.”
Me: “Ate, sir. You ATE an apple. ‘Et’ is not a word.”
Client: “Fine, but that’s only four.”
Me: “And five, it’s not long enough.”
Client: “How can it not be long enough. It’s well over 100 pages.”
Me: “Sir, the quantity of a book is based on word count, not pages. Your book may be over 100 pages, but with the size of the paper, the size of the font, and also that you start a brand new page every time you start a new chapter, it’s too short.”
Client: “Well, how long does it have to be?”
Me: “The average novel is between 80,000 to 120,000 words. Your novel is just over 16,000. I have nothing against people with dyslexia and there are many great writers who have it. You, however, will not be one of those writers. I can continue to list more things wrong with your novel but I have listed the five you requested. Now I must ask you to leave my office as I am incredibly busy.”
(The client grabs his novel from my hands and storms out. A couple of weeks later we receive a letter from a lawyer suing us for discrimination, claiming that we were not publishing the man’s novel because he was dyslexic. I had our lawyers phone his, explaining the true reasons, and also that our conversation was recorded. We never heard from him after that.)
(My roommate and I are doing some shopping at a popular supermarket chain. The employees wear red shirts with white name tags. My roommate works at a day spa and hasn’t changed out of her uniform yet, which is a black dress with a bronze name tag. As we are heading to check out, an elderly woman grabs my friend’s arm.)
Woman: “Can you tell me where the house robes are?”
My Roommate: “I’m sorry. I don’t know.”
(The woman is still holding on to my friend’s arm, so my friend gently pulls herself loose.)
Woman: “Excuse me! I asked you a question!”
My Roommate: “Ma’am, I’m sorry, but I really don’t know where they are. I don’t work here.”
(At this point, a store employee has noticed us and approaches.)
Employee: “Can I help you ladies?”
Woman: “This lady won’t help me find the house robes! She isn’t doing her job. I asked a simple question, and she’s ignoring me to hang out with her little friend instead. I want to speak to a manager.”
Employee: “Ma’am, I don’t believe she works here.”
Me: “She doesn’t.”
Woman: “Well, then why is she wearing a name tag?”
My Roommate: “I work at a day spa down the street and I haven’t had time to change out my uniform yet.”
Woman: “Oh. How was I supposed to know that?”
(She’s being very rude and I’m getting fed up with it.)
Me: “Because her uniform looks absolutely nothing like his?”
Woman: “Excuse me? I won’t be talked to like that.”
Employee: “Ma’am, I apologize for this misunderstanding. If you’ll come with me, I’ll show you the—”
Woman: “No! I want to see a manager! I want both of these girls fired!”
My Roommate: “Neither of us work here!”
I Don’t Work Here, Does Not Work Here, Part 12
I Don’t Work Here, Does Not Work Here, Part 11
I Don’t Work Here, Does Not Work Here, Part 10
I Don’t Work Here, Does Not Work Here, Part 9
I Don’t Work Here, Does Not Work Here, Part 8
I Don’t Work Here, Does Not Work Here, Part 7
I Don’t Work Here, Does Not Work Here, Part 6
I Don’t Work Here, Does Not Work Here, Part 5
Have you seen the latest optical illusion that’s been going around the web? You simply won’t believe your eyes.
Nor should you.
Here it is:
What’s the illusion, you ask? Those two vertical lozenge-shapes are the same shade!
Don’t believe me? Good! It’s always best to check things like this out for yourself. One way is to put your finger across the middle, blocking the part where they meet. When you do that, boom! You can see they’re the same shade of grey.
Here it is graphically:
Amazing, isn’t it? This is called the Cornsweet Illusion, after experimental psychologist Tom Cornsweet. Basically, it works by contrast: When we look at something, we perceive its color and shading relative to other things in the area and how we perceive it’s lit. In the picture here, we perceive the scene as three dimensional, with the light source to the upper left (note the shadow on the ground). The upper lozenge is shaded so that we see it as tilted away from us at its top (making the bottom look shaded), and the bottom one tilted the opposite way, so its top is lit.
That means our brain sees the upper lozenge as lit, while the bottom one is shadowed. That, coupled with the contrasting shading in between them, messes with how our brains interpret the image, and we think the upper one is darker than the bottom one.
But it isn’t. I actually went into Photoshop and selected the color of the top lozenge and created a square using it, then did the same for the bottom:
As you can see, both squares look the same… because they are. For the graphics geeks: They both have RGB values of (123, 124, 126).
This sort of illusion has been around a long time; the most famous version is probably the checkerboard illusion:
There’s even a video demonstrating it, which I love.
I have a full explanation of the checkerboard on the blog, but it’s the same sort of thing as the one above. Your brain gets bamboozled by the shadow cast by the cylinder, so it thinks the square in the shadow is lighter than the darker squares around it, but in fact it’s the same color and shade.
I love stuff like this! First, because it’s simply delightful. I think people enjoy seeing things that baffle them; puzzles are very enticing and addictive. But there’s another reason I’m so fond of illusions: They show us in no uncertain terms that what we see is not what we get. It’s extremely easy to fool our eyes and brain, and we should never simply trust that what we see, what we think is going on, is a fair and accurate representation of reality.
This is why we have science. Richard Feynman called it (with characteristic simplistic brilliance) “a way of not fooling ourselves”.
I agree. And it’s something to keep in mind when someone claims they saw a UFO, or a ghost, or Bigfoot. Eyewitness reports are notoriously unreliable, even when someone swears up and down “I know what I saw.”
They didn’t. Just like the illusion above, seeing something is just the beginning of the investigation, not the end.
Here are more posts I’ve written about illusions that will baffle and delight and madden you:
The Blue and the Green (my favorite of all time)
Tip o' the Necker Cube to David Smith.
And since I don't have a laptop to hand, that will do.
Thursday night was the first session of the classic Call of Cthulhu adventurer, Masks of Nyarlathotep. Very good progress in the first session with surviving characters from the previous Horror on the Orient Express story returning to make a second attempt at being consumed by the Old Ones; including the Nazi archaeological-occultist played by spaetlese (IRL, quite left-of-center), having just returned from their time in a Romanian sanatorium. In other gaming activities, have recently been very taken by Conquer Club which runs online Risk-like games with a range of different rulesets, maps, etc. I was introduced via a search for the author of the All-Adventure Action Roleplay Game! (AAARG!), which was successful - once again the Internet wins.
Visited Tojo last night and enjoyed excellent food, conversation, and drinks (for myself, a superb 2009 Spanish red). We watched Four Lions, a very impressive example of contemporary gallows humour, reminding me more of Man Bites Dog than La Grande Bouffe. It also makes an interesting supplement to compare against two books that I'm currently reading; Habermas' Between Naturalism and Religion and Clive Hamilton's The Freedom Paradox: Towards a Post-Secular Ethics. The contribution of the two should be interesting for the upcoming meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby.
The thing about this movie is that it's painful to watch. I knew the topic would be controversial before I went to the theater, but I really wasn't in the right state of mind to endure an emotional excoriation. The movie was so terribly "real" that I started mentally tracking my items so I could pick them up and walk out of the theater without causing much noise. I just couldn't take much more of the emotional gale that this story throws at the audience.
But I endured. I made it through the assault, the stabbing-murder, the Bible-quoting, the hanging-murder, the rape, the whipping of flayed flesh, and (possibly worst of all) the psychological disfigurement of both the enslaved and the enslavers.
It's a good movie. Really, it is. They even showed the audience that not all people working the plantations were black-skinned slaves. I wish they could've showed the fate of the Irish who also worked and lived among the slaves, but maybe the one token "slumming" poor white man is sufficient to make audiences scratch their heads and go look into the history of American slavery.
Every time I found myself ready to gather my things and leave, I would convince myself that "it's just a movie, it's not real, so calm yourself and watch a few more minutes". The self-deception worked. I sat through the whole story. Of course, the account wasn't just a Hollywood fable. It was real. It happened. The liberties that were taken with the autobiography just help to make the experience more palatable. I kept wondering, "Is this how modern Germans feel when they watch movies that explore the horrors of Nazi genocide?"
It's an excellent movie. It was so engulfing that on 3 occasions I felt compelled to leave in order to preserve my emotional balance, which the movie reminds us can be so easily and quickly shoved into the muck.
(I am 27 weeks pregnant and starting to have contractions. I am on the bus on my way to the hospital. The driver is aware of this. I pull the buzzer to get off the bus and start walking to the door.)
Driver: *to me* “You sit back down!” *to the rest of the bus* “Is anyone going to need any of the next four stops? Because if so, I suggest you get off now, as we are detouring!”
(The driver then takes us directly to the hospital. He stops the bus, gets out of his seat, walks me down the steps, and into the hospital! The next day I am still in the hospital. I call up the transit office.)
Me: “Hi, yes. I was on bus [number] yesterday evening and the driver detoured from his route for me. I just wanted to make sure he is not in trouble. Because of him, they were able to save the life of my unborn son!”
Transit Employee: “No worries, miss. We only got one complaint from a passenger. The driver called us as soon as he got back with everyone on the bus. He has been given a commendation for his actions yesterday. Thank you for calling, and take care!”
(My sister and I work in a bakery owned by our family; our grandma is the owner.)
Customer: “Hi. I’m the owner’s daughter. So, I can get my food for free, okay?”
Me: “Okay, I’ll call your mother in, okay?”
(The customer nervously nods. I call in my grandma.)
Grandma: “What is it?”
Me: “Oh, this customer says you’re her mum.”
(My grandma looks at the customer.)
Grandma: “I have never seen you in my life. Also, you look about twenty. So you could pass as my granddaughter, but not as my daughter!”
(The customer runs out quickly!)
Lying Is All Relative(s)
(I work as a courtesy clerk and bag boy at a grocery store. My state has recently started charging people for store-provided paper or plastic bags. Whenever possible, I try to fit all the customers’ items into the reusable bags that they give me. In this case, the customer only hands me one reusable canvas bag. I have just finished packing it as full as it will go, when the customer’s wife joins us at the register.)
Customer’s Wife: “Oh, that bag is way too heavy. Neither of us will be able to lift it.”
Me: “I’m sorry about that. Would you like me to get another bag and re-pack these items for you?”
Customer’s Wife: “Yes, please.”
(The customer’s wife hands me another reusable canvas bag. I finish bagging their groceries, distributing the items as evenly as I can between the two bags. I then put the bags into their shopping cart, to make room on the counter so that I can start bagging the next person’s items.)
Customer’s Wife: “Oh, no. These bags are still too heavy. We still won’t be able to lift them.”
Me: “I’m so sorry about that. I can get you some of the paper bags that the store provides, and help you re-bag your items again.”
Customer’s Wife: “No, no. I don’t think we need any more bags. We just need these bags to be less heavy!”
(I am a brand new phone tech support agent for a well known computer company that prides itself in ‘ease of use’. This is my first call. As such, I have a trainer double jacked with me to listen and help.)
Me: “Hello and thank you for calling Tech Support. My name is—”
Customer: “You a**-holes! Gimme back my credit card now!”
Me: “Excuse me? I’m sorry, ma’am. I don’t understand what you mean.”
Customer: “You know exactly what I mean! You took my credit card and I want it back right f****** now!”
Me: “I do apologize, but I’m still not exactly sure what you mean. How did we steal your credit card?”
Customer: “Your stupid f****** computer asked for my credit card and now it won’t give it back!”
Me: “Once again I do apologize, but I’m still not sure exactly how we took your credit card. What were you doing when we took it?”
Customer: “I was setting up the internet and you f****** took it!?”
Me: “Was someone helping you at the store and they took it while setting up the internet?”
Customer: “No, you god-d*** moron! I was setting it up at home and when it asked for my credit card info I put it into the credit card slot on the computer. Now this piece of s*** won’t give it back!”
Me: “Ma’am, our computers don’t come with credit card readers.”
Customer: “Of course it does! It has a slot right on the front for it.”
(At this point I realize the customer has put her card in the disk drive. After walking her through several steps I have to refer her to a service center to get the card removed.)
Me: “So, once again, I do apologize for the inconvenience this has caused. You will need to take your computer to one of our service centers so that one of our techs may remove your card.”
Customer: “I can’t f****** believe this! I’m reporting you and I’ll have you run out of business!”
(The customer hangs up. I turn to my trainer.)
Me: “Are all my calls gonna be that crazy?”
Trainer: “Only if you’re lucky.”
(I’m a waitress at a popular tavern. We’re lucky, in that the owners and managers of the bar fully back up the staff when customers are rude to us. I have a septum piercing and two small scars on my lip from old piercings. An older couple and a few of their friends have just sat down.)
Me: “Hey, guys! Can I get you anything to drink?”
Customer: “Have you had those piercings in very long?”
Me: “Oh, the nose ring I’ve had since I was in high school. I took out my lip piercings a few years ago, though.”
Customer: “Ugh. You’d be so much prettier without all that garbage in your face.”
(I reply with my ‘aggressive smile’ on.)
Me: “Wow. Thank you for your completely rude and unsolicited opinion. Since my face offends you so much, feel free to order all of your beers and food up at the bar from now on.”
(As I’m walking away to help my other tables, the customer’s wife grabs my arm quite roughly and yanks me back.)
Customer’s Wife: “Ignore him. He just likes talking s***. Can we get some beers now?”
Me: “I really appreciate your incredibly sincere apology. Until you can get your husband to stop ‘talking s***’ to complete strangers, especially those who are waiting on you, you might consider keeping him on a leash.”
(One of my regulars at the next table overhears the entire exchange. He leaves me a $20 tip and a note with ‘I like your garbage face!’ written on it.)
(I work the returns counter at a retail store. We have a customer that comes in every couple of months and returns several packs of Polaroid film, each worth about $20. She never has a receipt and always has the same excuse that she bought too much for the occasion. We suspect she is stealing them from another store in the area, and returning them at our store. Our loss prevention team doesn’t have enough on her to deny the returns. The electronics department implements a policy that we are not allowed to return Polaroid film without a receipt if it doesn’t have one of our security tags on it. Sure enough, the customer comes back in after this policy is in place. None of the boxes she brings in have our security tags on them.)
Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am. I’m not able to return these without a receipt.”
Customer: “But I’ve returned these here before. Why can’t I now?”
Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am. They changed our return policy. We are no longer allowed to return this type of film without a receipt if it doesn’t have our security tag on it.”
Customer: “Well, I know I bought it here. I want my money back.”
Me: “Again, I’m sorry, ma’am. These do not have our security tag on them. I cannot do a return without a receipt. Could you have purchased them from [other store in the area]?”
Customer: “NO! I bought them here. If I can’t return them here I just won’t shop here anymore!”
Me: “I’m sorry to hear that, ma’am, but I have to follow our return policy.”
(The customer walks off with her film, huffing as she goes. After about 10 minutes the customer’s husband storms up to my counter.)
Customer’s Husband: “You calling my wife a thief?!”
Me: “Excuse me, sir?”
Customer’s Husband: “My wife was just up here trying to return film. She said you told her she couldn’t return it because it was stolen!”
Me: “No, sir. I explained to her that I couldn’t return the film without a receipt because they don’t have our security tags on them. Then I asked if she might have purchased them from [other store in the area]. I never accused her of stealing.”
Customer’s Husband: *shouting* “I’ve never seen this ‘security tag’ you’re talking about. You’re lying to me!”
(The customer’s husband storms off towards the electronics department, shouting.)
Customer’s Husband: “I’m going to prove you’re a liar. Then I’m gonna kick your a**!”
(I run after him to try to warn the department manager of what’s about to happen. When the husband gets into the department he starts pulling 35mm film packs off the shelf shouting.)
Customer’s Husband: “I don’t see no security tag!”
(He then throws the packages over the shelf. The manager of the department is now dodging packs of film as he is trying to get to the customer. I reach him first. I grab a Polaroid film pack off the shelf and show the man the security tag on the back that I have been referring to all along. The man stops mid-throw and mid-shout, looks at me for a moment and then walks away without saying a word. We never saw either of them again in our store.)
The CDC just announced that measles cases in the United States in 2013 tripled over the annual average. There were 175 cases (so far), when usually there are about 60.
Well, let’s see. In March, there were 58 cases alone in Brooklyn, N.Y., tied to a Jewish community that refused or delayed vaccinations. In Texas, a megachurch that preached anti-vaccination views had an outbreak with at least 20 cases. In North Carolina, 23 cases were reported in one outbreak; most of them in a religious (Hare Krishna) community that was largely unvaccinated.
In all three of these outbreaks, someone who had not been vaccinated traveled overseas and brought the disease back with them, which then spread due to low vaccination rates in their communities. It's unclear how much religious beliefs themselves were behind the outbreaks in Brooklyn and North Carolina; it may have been due to widespread secular anti-vax beliefs in those tight-knit groups. But either way, a large proportion of the people in those areas were unvaccinated.
By the numbers, those outbreaks alone are responsible for the huge increase in measles cases in the US this past year. And they are all due to people not getting vaccinated.
Listen: Measles is not a disease we should be screwing around with. 30 percent of cases develop complications like pneumonia, diarrhea, or ear infections. One in five children who contract it are hospitalized. One in a thousand will get encephalitis. One or two out of a thousand will die from it.
Yes, die. From a disease that is essentially wholly preventable with a vaccine. Worldwide, measles kills well over a hundred thousand people every year. That’s 18 deaths per hour.
Before the US vaccination program started in 1963, 400 – 500 people died from measles every year here. Tens of thousands more were made very ill and were hospitalized. Today, that number has dropped to almost —but not quite—zero. And that’s because of vaccines.
If you can, talk to your board-certified doctor and find out about what vaccines you need. Vaccines are not expensive, but even so, many places provide free vaccinations; the CDC has a page that lets you find locations of health centers near you.
And please, don’t listen to the nonsense promulgated by the anti-vaxxers. Vaccines do not cause autism. Vaccines do not contain a dangerous amount of toxins. In reality, vaccines work. They really do.
It’s been 50 years since the measles vaccine was approved for use in the US. The CDC recently honored Dr. Samuel Katz, who was largely responsible for its development. The vaccine is now used worldwide, and over that time, it has saved millions of lives. Millions.
As Katz put it, “The challenge is not whether we shall see a world without measles, but when.”
Hear, hear. In 1977 we wiped out smallpox. Measles? You're next.