Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Things I have long wondered about

1. In The Secret of My Success, there's a line I have never understood. The Michael J. Fox character is driving Aunt Vera back to her house in the country and eavesdrops on her car-phone conversation. She says (of her husband), "The last one I caught him with was so dumb, she thought 'dictation' was some kind of S&M trip." As a kid, I thought maybe this supposed bimbo was combining the words "dick" and "vacation" to arrive at this meaning of "dictation." But even in the '80s I knew this wasn't a very good joke; dicks don't necessarily entail bondage. Twenty-odd years later I still don't know what this joke means. Because he's telling her what to type, she thinks it's like a dom-sub situation? What the hell is going on here?


2. You know how they say people eat spicy food and drink hot beverages, soups, etc. in hot climates because it makes you sweat and that cools you off? I've never bought that reasoning. I mean, if you weren't hot enough to sweat to begin with, weren't you better off before? Like let's say your body temperature is hovering a fraction of a degree below the point where you start sweating. Then, you raise your body temperature by drinking a hot Chai. So you start sweating. Then a breeze comes by and that one sweaty part on your forehead feels kinda nice (evaporative cooling FTW!). But is that really going to make you feel better than you felt before you drank the tea?

30 comments:

  1. But perhaps it is "good for you" to sweat so that cultures that consume spicy food are likelier to survive even though from their perspective it feels like a horrible compulsion? (For instance, why does one write comments that trigger one's own gag reflex...)

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  2. I assume he told her to "take dictation" which would sound...not S&M, but aggressive? And I guess "trip" not meaning vacation, but like the old slang use of the word. It's not a good joke. Love, American Style would have bought it, though.

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    1. Yeah, later in life I figured out which meaning of "trip" she was using, but found it still didn't make much sense.

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  3. I used to wonder about the spicy food thing, too. Then an Indian friend explained to me that it's less about sweating than creating the illusion of being cooler. Like you make yourself really uncomfortable and hot, so that when your body temperature lowers back to the previous hot state, it feels like a welcome respite. That makes a little more sense to me, but not much.

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    1. Ha! I guess?? Seems like hitting yourself because it feels so good when you stop...

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    2. That makes sense to me. Similarly, I've discovered that a hot shower in hot weather is better than a cold shower because after you get out of the steaming hot sauna of a bathroom, the hallway feels relatively cool. A cold shower may feel good while it's happening, but the minute you turn the water off, you start to feel the heat of the air again and you're right back where you started.

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    3. Oh, I love cold showers in the heat. This whole thing is probably a matter of perspective (half glass full type shit) rather than anything based on actual science.

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  4. 1. Why would anyone watch "The Secret of My Success"?

    2. http://www.sciencebase.com/science-blog/a-cooling-hot-drink.html (I especially like the 5th paragraph from the top).

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    1. 1. Um, anyone who likes to have FUN?
      2. "So, their cooling effect may just last a little longer than is actually needed to get you back to normal temperature and so you may end up a little cooler than when you started." Notice the double "may." Far from conclusive.

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    2. 1. I didn't say "Who," I said "Why". Fun is something I like to have and yet I still mentally run screaming from the thought of watching that movie.

      2. Right, I didn't mean to say that it was conclusive, or that I buy the idea, I just like the aside explaining perhaps the real reason English women drank tea to cool down.

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    3. Sorry, I meant, people who like to have fun watch it in order to do so. I find that movie simply delightful.

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    4. I don't know why I'm being so contentious on your blog. I guess I'm still smarting from that dude's misperception of my comment on your Eagles post. Also procrastinating. Sorry.

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    5. No need for apology. It is I who am sorry that you refuse to let this film's joy into your life.

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    6. Never stop smarting from something a guy you don't know said in a blog comment. These are the important things in life.

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  5. "Dictation" sounds like "dictator." A bdsm trip because the "top," in kink parlance, dominates the "bottom" like a dictator.

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    1. Dictation/dictator ... OK, I guess I buy that. Doesn't make the joke any funnier though.

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  6. I've often wondered about the hot/cold drinks and foods in hot/cold weather thing. This article breaks it down in terms of calories: http://cancerresourcecenter.com/articles/article20.html If you don't feel like reading the whole thing, the takeaway is: "The practical application of this nugget of information is drinking hot liquids does not actually raise body temperature by a measurable amount and drinking cold liquids does not actually lower body temperature by a measurable amount."

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    1. Yeah, most of the measures we take in reaction to weather (aside from, you know, using fire) are probably about perception on the skin and whatnot, right? I mean how much can putting on a sweater actually raise your body temperature?

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    2. This reminds me vaguely of a pretty good post on Milton Friedman's thermostat.

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    3. That was a bit over my head in my underslept state but interesting, thanks.

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  7. 1.
    I understand the joke to mean something like this fairly lame paraphrase: "The last one I caught him with was so dumb, and had such a one-track-mind interest in kinky sex, that she thought any word she was not familiar with -- for instance, 'dictation' -- must have something to do with kinky sex."

    2.
    The spicy food / hot liquids thing has a lot of variables going on with it. Hot spicy food isn't the same thing as hot temperature food. A room-temperature jalapeno pepper will taste at least as spicy-hot as one that has been cooked.

    During the winter here (Minnesota), hospitals periodically put out information advising people to drink hot liquids as one of the treatments for hypothermia (or for being generally cold, whether or not actual hypothermia).

    There are specific types of sensory nerves in the body that sense heat and that sense cold, and it's possible that a series of chemical reactions is started as a result of either the heat-feeling or cold-feeling nerves being stimulated, and this could be (partially) the basis of the notions about drinking hot or cold liquids. But I'm just speculating without having researched this.

    I rarely drink hot liquids in either cold or hot (or moderate) weather. I do however eat hot and cold (temperature) food in all weather temperatures. I've eaten ice cream outside in the winter. (It's wonderful -- it doesn't melt until it's in your mouth.)

    When the air temperature is hot, the body tends to circulate blood a little closer to the surface of the body, and a little more into the outer extremities, as a way of shedding excess heat faster (whether by sweating or just by heat radiating off -- sweating isn't the only way our bodies reduce heat).

    When the air temperature is cold, the body tends to circulate blood a little more toward the center of the body, away from the skin and outer extremities, as a way of preserving heat.

    (This is why, when there's a sudden drop in air temperature, it feels especially cold for the first day -- it takes a day or so for the body to adjust its circulation to the colder temperature.)

    The blood circulation thing would figure into whether a hot shower or cold shower cools you off faster in hot weather. When I'm really hot, I find that a mildly cool shower feels good, but a really cold one is almost painful and tires me out.

    Body temperature can fluctuate, but normally not by much -- as far as I know, for most people, it doesn't vary by much more than a degree during the course of a day, unless the person has a fever or something. (I imagine there are exceptions.)

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    1. Yes, the reputed bimbo--who, despite her stupidity, probably knows she wasn't hired for her secretarial skills--is likely to place a lewd construction on any request she doesn't understand. But there's a reason "dictation" was chosen over other words she wouldn't know. Probably it was chosen because of its proximity to "dictator" and because it contains "dick." Hollywood thinks people in fly-over land just dissolve into giggles when they hear a dick pun. No, it's not a funny joke. It's one of those broad, brittle, sitcom-y, faux-naughty jokes that Hollywood produces in such abundance.

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    2. I sort of wonder if the hot drink in hot weather thing isn't a learned response -- like if it's widely accepted in your culture that drinking hot tea when it's 110 out will make you feel cooler, you'll believe it. I mean it's not like I've never had a hot drink on a hot day before. I avoid it, though, because it makes me feel gross. (I drink iced coffee from like March to October.) I haven't *learned* that response. I imagine whatever effects drinking hot or cool beverages has are not consistent for everyone.

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    3. I've had iced coffee a few times. It reminded me too much of iced tea. For me the enjoyment of hot coffee seems impervious to seasonal changes.

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    4. I much prefer iced coffee to hot. It's partly that hot coffee is almost never hot enough for me, especially since I take my coffee with cream and the cream always cools it down. Then I don't drink it fast enough. I can't abide lukewarm coffee. Iced coffee maintains its temperature longer. I brew it at home and use lots of ice.

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    5. I guess it goes without saying that I drink it black (and scalding:)

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    6. Like you drink your women?

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