A World Out of Whack in
Four Easy & Weird Stories
Ah, it’s a wonderful world out there. But it may be a matter of perception whose wonders are out there, and how much reality has to be bent to fully appreciate them. After all, as this year’s Ig Noble Award winning Psychology study has so thoroughly proven, ‘Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller.’
If that sounds like nonsense, boy do we have a post for you. From what dads are saying about their kids these days, and that includes those who shouldn’t even be called fathers, to how much arsenic your bowl of rice may be holding, to a completely off the left field study about ugly fonts and car crashes, the list is long.
And it’s all true. Or rather, if this is true, than how much of it you currently have in your life? Better get some, friend; if the world’s going to hell in a handbasket, you may still need to find your own seat. Or you may just want to forget it all and enjoy your football game, but wait, there’s something weird about that too.
It’s likely that from this season on, your favorite sport may no longer be as enjoyable as it used to be. First, research proved that the game itself has been causing brain damage to a lot of still able bodies. Then a dispute within the league, has unleashed onto the fields a platoon of unprepared referees that have so far wreak havoc on the season.
On top of that, you may still not be aware of the NFL’s best-kept secret: a study clocked the ball in play for only 11 minutes of the average 174 minutes official time of a game. But not to worry, you’re still paying for the additional hour of commercials that interrupt the play at precious times.
So as we were saying, hell is going up in the world in a basket full of hands. Or something like that. Now that we completely ruined your mood about the best thing you could do on a Sunday (and Monday nights, and Thursdays, and…), we’re confident that you’re going to hate us first, but then may eventually agree with us: they did stop making sense long ago.
THE WORLD’S BEST FATHERS
So there’s Buzz Bishop, a popular Canadian blogger who’s dabbled for years in many aspects of parenting. All useful and honest and all that. Until, that is, a few weeks ago, when he told his audience that of his two kids, one is his favorite. And then, kudos to him, while facing criticism, he didn’t recant what he had said but actually doubled down, according to Lisa Belkin.
All hell (and this is the last we’ll be using this word here) broke loose, as expected, despite his soulful admission, and the fact that his kids are infants now. It was terrible, he later realized it, because he thought his kids would never read his posts once grown ups. He, obviously, thought wrong and should’ve known better.
We’re resisting piling on, lest the poor guy already had to deal with thousands of strangers telling him where to go. But it was in poor taste to say it like that, and he could’ve saved himself from some later grief. As for the kids, they may turn out alright, but their dad evidently should fire himself from the duties of his own PR.
Another kind of man who calls himself father, without being one (something to do with magic and invisible worlds, we’re not sure), completely lost the right to ever use that title about himself. His bosses, though, think differently, and that really irks us. The ‘father’ in question is a Franciscan friar (see the name on the link, we can’t bring ourselves to even give him credit).
Some weeks ago, from the top of what one may only consider personal experience, he accused teenagers victims of sexual abuse by priests and members of his profession, of being, pardon our Farsi, ‘cock teasers.’ Seriously, we’re trying to exercise restrain here, so let’s move to the next graph to read a quote from this wolf in sheep’s clothing.
‘Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer.’ Of course, nothing happened. The Catholic church, and other organizations that claim to hold the moral standard of our times, have spent millions of dollars, not trying to fix this shame in their midst, but suppressing its whistleblowers.
So this obviously mentally disturbed 78-year-old prelate with a Psychology degree is likely to remain active at a center for prayer in upstate New York. There, he’ll be writing books and appearing weekly on a religious television network, until the conclusion of his mostly peaceful life, a privilege which will be forever denied to the tormented victims of sexual abuse by priests.
RICE TO SEIZE YOU (AS IN SEIZURES)
Since the last subject may have made you sick, let’s talk about food. The kind you need to throw up, quickly, or it may kill you. Take rice, for example. Long the staple of Asian and Hispanic cultures, it’s part of the American diet as Sushi or Arroz con Pollo can be. Hey, in a nation of immigrants, one crosses a street and enters another country.
Now, a Consumer Reports study shows that over 60 rice and rice products have traceable levels of arsenic, both in organic and inorganic form (we’ll get to it in a moment). That includes your delicious morning cereal, the crackers you serve your friends around SuperBowl time, and even the whole grain, brown type you’ve paying so much for.
Arsenic is a known carcinogenic and can cause several types of cancer, liver and kidney failure. The distinction between organic and inorganic is mostly formal, since both can be harmful to the body. While inorganic seems to be the most dangerous kind, the general advice is, naturally, stay away from both of them.
That may not be so easy. Even though U.S.-grown rice has higher levels than what comes from India and Thailand, for example, regular consumers of it such as Mexicans and a wide array of ethnic Asian groups ‘had arsenic levels that were at least 44 percent greater than those who had not,’ according to the report.
The cause for so much poison in such a major food item is, you guess it, pollution from pesticides, that seep through and contaminate soil and ground water. It also comes from animal feed, which contain even higher levels or arsenic, and that ultimately winds up in the environment. The EPA is studying ways to implement safety measures.
Ultimately, we’re not about to suffer massive deaths from arsenic poisoning any time soon. But many will become sick as a consequence of its presence in our food supply. The study recommends a few steps that, short from stopping eating rice altogether, may help minimize its risks.
THE FONT OF AUTOMOBILE DISASTERS
Finally, the news item that may as well encapsulate the meaning of this whole post. And reaffirm our initial premise that there may be a lot of sane and well meaning people in this world. But the greatest majority of the human population can be characterized (it’s sad to say) as completely and utterly deranged nuts.
Among the few good ones, are the folks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab, who conducted a study about the typeface design of texts on the driver’s dashboard of a car, and their possible impact on accidents, as a distraction factor. We still don’t know how come the MIT didn’t choose to submit this study to the Ig Noble Awards. Perhaps next year.
AgeLab research scientist Bryan Reimer and his team found that changes in the fonts used to instruct the driver inside the car could have actual consequences on the road. The study was conducted with the support of typeface designer Monotype Imaging, whose marketing director David Gould was quick to add that ‘we’re absolutely not promoting more text in the car.”
What the study’s tried to address is the fact that the series of built-in LCD screens, plus the driver’s own gadgets and devices, all dutifully, and illegally, scrutinized while at the wheel, are becoming an increased risk of car crashes. And that design may help to reduce the time one needs to stare at them, and away from the road.
A lot of previous psychological studies of typeface design and their effectiveness in conveying the message as quick as possible have been invoked in the study. But what ultimately was being measured was how instinctively we react to information and respond to it, and how fast can we get back to the business of keeping our cars safely moving ahead.
Critics may say that this sort of approach is our own admission of hopelessness at preventing people from reading while at the wheel. As if speeding up an object weighting several hundred pounds, while also carrying some of the driver’s most important people in the world, wasn’t enough to demand from him or her their ultimate attention.
Perhaps. But we also need to be pragmatic when it comes to safety; even a tiny improvement in the overall risky conditions may save lives. If this all sounds like a big cliche, we’re sure that, while reading this post, you’ve granted yourself plenty of breaks and distractions, have checked your messages a few times, and may have had a drink or two in the process.
That’s how life disrupts our little routines. To us, those MIT researchers can go ahead and find a typeface only our robot driver will understand. We’ll be too busy texting. Which got us thinking: wasn’t supposed to be around here somewhere that Latino restaurant we’ve heard about? Hum, guess what? the dashboard is flashing its exact GPS location. Just take a left right here. There. Watch out.