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Apologies and compensation Tue, Jul 15, 2014
I had an appointment for one of my pets last week at the vet.  I arrived a few minutes early (by accident).  I waited an entire hour before seeing the vet.  More than once during that hour, I was told, "Sorry for the wait."  Since it wasn't ok, I didn't say, "It's ok."  I just gave a slight smile and an acknowledging nod.  When I finally saw the vet, she apologized and explained that there was an emergency regarding another pet.  I nodded in acknowledgement. 

I believe they made the ethically right decision of treating the emergency as more important than the routine appointment.  I would've done the same thing.  And I don't think they made me wait just to mess with me.  But it doesn't negate the fact that (a) I had an appointment, and (b) I had to wait for an hour.  Apologizing didn't give me my time back, and it didn't take away my annoyance. 

I think the proper way to apologize in that scenario is with some form of compensation, probably either a refund on what I already paid or a free visit some other time.  The way I see it, they broke the appointment contract.  But since it was an unforeseen circumstance, I can understand why the appointment wasn't kept.  Seeing that the business was still making money (positive) while treating an emergency (positive) while not keeping my appointment (negative), the only person in the equation who didn't benefit was me.  It stands to reason that the business should compensate for that. #psychology

Very Short Introductions Tue, Jul 15, 2014
Very Short Introductions is a series of books on various topics that cover just enough to provide some good information without overwhelming the reader or getting too in-depth.  They're all about 150-200 pages, and they're written by different authors so the "voice" isn't always the same.  I've read several of them and like them a lot. #entertainment

Cilantro and soap Thu, Jul 10, 2014
Apparently cilantro tastes like soap for some people, and there's a scientific reason why. #science

White whiskey Wed, Jul 09, 2014
White whiskey (or white dog, white lightning, moonshine) is simply unaged whiskey.  The thing that makes whiskey good is the aging in wooden barrels.  So white whiskey takes all the good parts of whiskey and removes them so you're left with only the bad stuff.  Put another way
White whiskey, then, is simply corn liquor that either never made it in the barrel or spent so little time in it to not matter. Consequently, it's clear as water, but hot with alcohol, harsh to drink and tastes heavily (and miserably) of sweet corn. All in all, it's not a very good spirit.
Slate says it even better:  "It tastes horrible."  It's true, the stuff is disgusting.  It's sort of like vodka, except more flavorful, and hence worse.  It's amazing that this has become a trend.  I was at a whiskey tasting and overheard a guy ask the bartender how to drink it (i.e. what to look for in smell, taste), and the bartender simply said "quickly".  Of all the myriad configurations of ethanol you can pour down your gullet, why anyone would choose something that's actively disgusting is beyond me.  If you want crappy whiskey, go with one of those giant plastic gallon jugs at the liquor store.  If you want to be extra American, pick anything with the word "bourbon" in it.  If you want something cheap, how about Jim Beam?  My point is that nobody is gaining anything by drinking white whiskey, except the distillers who are selling an unfinished product for much more than it's worth. #products

Imagining different realities Tue, Jul 08, 2014
I noticed a while ago that it's really difficult to imagine a different reality than the one you currently occupy.  Not like aliens and time travel and whatnot, but like imagining how things would be in the present if things in the past had gone differently. 

For example, sometimes I wish I drank more in college.  This sounds ridiculous, but give me a minute.  Cheap beer and crappy shots flowed freely in those days, but I held off until I was 21.  If I had started earlier, I could've gotten a few mistakes out of the way early (like Southern Comfort) instead of making those mistakes later in life when my body was older and less inclined to recover from a hangover. 

But if I drank at that time in my life, I probably wouldn't have been hanging out with the people I was hanging out with, which means I probably wouldn't have met my wife, which means I probably wouldn't have had the self-confidence to quit religion, etc.  The point is that we're all essentially a product of our experiences, and it's nearly impossible to imagine how things would've turned out if we changed just one of the many variables. #psychology

Cannibalism calories Mon, Jul 07, 2014
Popular Science wrote an article about the caloric content of human bodies.  A whole human contains about 81,500 calories, while a whole leg is around 7150.  As the saying goes, an arm a day (1800 calories) keeps the doctor away. #science

Human extinction Mon, Jun 30, 2014
One of the most interesting and surprising facts I've learned in recent years concerns human extinction.  Neil DeGrasse Tyson put it like this in Death by Black Hole:  "Fact is, humans cannot really kill Earth.  Our planet will remain in orbit around the Sun, along with its planetary brethren, long after Homo sapiens has become extinct by whatever cause."  That's a fairly nonchalant way of referring to the near certainty of humans going extinct.  It's a fascinating and somewhat scary thing to think about, but it's based on a few pieces of solid reasoning:  Assuming we don't kill ourselves with bullets or nuclear bombs, there's a good possibility we'll be wiped out by a global pandemic.  If that doesn't happen, there's a good chance we've trashed the earth enough to make it nearly inhospitable to life.  But even if those two things don't happen, there's still the fact that no species in the history of our planet has lived longer than a few million years.  People like to talk about our galaxy's impending collision with the Andromeda galaxy in 4 billion years, or the death of the sun in 5 billion years.  But current thinking suggests that humans will go extinct way before that time.  And that's a crazy thing to think about. #science

Armand Hammer vs. Arm & Hammer Mon, Jun 30, 2014
Armand Hammer was a guy who owned Occidental Petroleum for many years.  His name sounds suspiciously like Arm & Hammer, the company that makes baking soda and other household products.  Wikipedia sums it up thusly
In the 1980s Hammer owned a considerable amount of stock in Church and Dwight, the company that manufactures Arm & Hammer products; he also served on its board of directors. But the Arm & Hammer company's brand name did not originate with Armand Hammer. It was in use some 31 years before Hammer was born.
Slightly mind-blowing. #business

The Great Whiskey Spill Wed, Jun 25, 2014
A tragic yet funny thing happened when we were traveling around Kentucky bourbon country.  I bought several bottles of various bourbons and put them in the hatchback area of the rental car.  I left them in there overnight and the next day while we hung out with some friends. 

When I went to get something from the car the next evening, I was met with a thick, unbearable cloud of alcohol scent.  It was like an alcohol explosion in my sinuses.  What had happened was that one of the bottles popped its cork stopper and spilled half its contents onto the fabric of the rental car.  Not only did it pop its top, it popped its top through the plastic seal that held the cork in place.  That's some energetic ethanol! 

I was bummed that I spilled some good whiskey and wasted some money.  But the real issue was that our rental car smelled unmistakably like alcohol, which isn't a good thing for a motor vehicle to smell like.  So I opened the windows and let everything air out overnight, and I even sprayed Febreze on the mats and let them dry in the sun. 

When we got in the car to continue on our journey, the smell was still definitely there.  I was hoping maybe some fresh air at 70 mph would help the situation, or maybe air conditioning would magically clean things up.  After driving for a few hours, the smell seemed to have vanished.  But every time we left the car and re-entered, it was back.  Thankfully, the alcohol smell had vanished, and it left in its place the sweet, smokey, caramel aroma of finely aged bourbon.  Certainly an improvement over the new-car small of a rental car! 

I contacted the bourbon company and told them my sad story, and they were actually apologetic about the packaging failure and offered me a refund!  In return I told them I'd tell this story as an homage to them and their generosity.  So thanks, Wild Turkey!  Russell's Reserve 10 Year Old is some damn fine bourbon.

Cosmos finale five rules Tue, Jun 24, 2014
I missed the last episode of Cosmos, so I missed this invocation by host Neil deGrasse Tyson about the five simple rules of science: 
  1. Question authority.  No idea is true just because someone says so, including me.
  2. Think for yourself.  Question yourself.  Don't believe anything just because you want to.  Believing something doesn't make it so.
  3. Test ideas by the evidence gained from observation and experiment.  If a favorite idea fails a well-designed test, it's wrong.  Get over it.
  4. Follow the evidence, wherever it leads.  If you have no evidence, reserve judgment.
  5. Remember, you could be wrong.  Even the best scientists have been wrong about some things.
That's some good stuff.  Every time I started watching an episode, I would feel reluctant to press play because I didn't feel like turning my brain on and having to think about something.  But every single time, I got completely sucked in and didn't mind having to think.  What a great TV series. #science

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