what didn’t happen in Juneau didn’t stay in Juneau
In “It Happened in Juneau”, near the end of the third season of Northern Exposure (one of very few TV series of which I’ve seen every episode twice), Maggie flies Joel to Juneau for a conference; they both get lonely, and drunkenly seduce each other. But Maggie falls asleep and cannot be roused, so Joel puts her to bed alone.
In the morning they return to Cicely. Maggie believes that they did copulate, and partly regrets it. Some time goes by before Joel succeeds in telling Maggie what really happened. She is insulted: “Why didn’t you? I had consented!”
Maggie later invites Joel to her house to try again. She asks him to say his desire for her is so strong that he’ll let nothing get in its way. She then finds (or reveals) that that expression of desire, rather than the execution, was what she really wanted from Joel, and dismisses him.
This affair bugs me on two points. First: I can accept that Maggie is insulted by Joel’s inaction, but in a normal woman wouldn’t the insult be outweighed by relief? (Well, the people of Cicely are quirky, and Maggie more so than some.)
Second: what Maggie asks of Joel in the end, taken literally, includes a commitment to rape her. Am I sick for noticing that? On reflection, I guess it’s in character – and suitable for prime time – that Joel is too startled (and perhaps deflated!) by the dismissal to respond with more than a bewildered verbal protest; but I’m still disappointed that the script didn’t explore that point at all.
Many of the anecdotes at Not Always Right concern customers who expect someone to know, without being told anything, what they seek. It crosses my mind that, if you’re stupid enough, you frequently encounter someone who accurately infers things that you have not said, and come to expect it.
a guilt-trip down memory lane
When I lived in Oakland, I was twice approached at night by a panhandler who announced, “I’m black but I’m not a mugger!” Both times I flinched and, of course, felt guilty.
It now occurs to me belatedly that, if young adult males are the most violent subset of naked apes, it’s not irrational to be wary of a solitary nocturnal specimen, regardless of his albedo.
Someone recently told me that it’s easier to memorize a sequence, such as a text, from the end: when you recite it you’re moving toward familiar ground. Friday I gave this trick a modest test, when I had to copy a 15-digit number from one place to another. It works.
Saturday I was having a snack in a public place and heard a mother and daughter at the next table speaking French. When the little one looked my way I made chit-chat in French, well enough that the mother asked whether I speak French routinely! In fact this was about my third French conversation in a year (and by far the longest).
time and capacity
Malcolm Gladwell writes in his new book:
. . . excellence at a complex task requires a critical, minimum level of practice – which surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is a magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.
Does anyone else find it suspicious that the magic number does not depend on the field? Perhaps it does not measure the amount of study necessary for expertise, whatever that is, but a point beyond which improvement is much more difficult because a brain’s capacity is finite, which then becomes our definition of expertise.
Dad has often mentioned that when he first got eyeglasses he was surprised to see that trees had discrete leaves; I never found that to be a big deal.
But now I sometimes find that blades of grass stand out with unnatural vividness. I wonder whether it’s because contacts can give a more accurate correction (because their position is less variable) or because, with this lateral bifocal arrangement, the contrast between sharp and blur is always subconsciously present.
stick a finger in my eye
After wearing glasses for thirty-odd years, I’m tired of it. I’m thinking of surgery; since I’m on the verge of needing bifocals, my bright idea is to have one eye adjusted for distance and the other for arm’s length (the typical distance of a computer screen or a gun sight). It did occur to me that this might be a Bad Idea for some reason I hadn’t thought of, so I decided to bring it up with my optometrist. To my surprise, as soon as I mentioned LASIK he brought up monovision. He pointed out that some people find it very hard to adjust, and suggested that it would be wise to try it with contacts first before risking anything permanent.
So now I have contacts; temporarily accepting a lot more optical fuss in the hope that later I’ll have much less. With them, my dominant eye is (according to Doc Lowe) about 3/4 diopter more farsighted
then my, er, submissive eye. (Presumably there is a term of art but I don’t know what it is.) I think his plan is to increase the difference every few weeks.
I haven’t got the knack of taking soft contacts out. With hard ones, you just put tension on the lids and pop!. These I have to drag out with a fingertip. Today and yesterday I stripped one eye on the first try, but had a much harder time with the dominant eye – which is counterintuitive; you’d think the thicker lens would be easier to grab.
Entirely unrelated: In The Atlantic, an article on the rationale of the naked streets movement (though it doesn’t use that phrase). The key point: when rules take the place of judgement, people learn not to use judgement. A similar argument has been made about safety regulation in general.