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Palindrome Challenge

Palindrome: A word, phrase or sentence (or even series of sentences) that can be read the same from left to right and right to left. (forward and backward)

In 1992 John Jensen, of Carlton University posted a request for original palindromes on an internet writing forum. Here is just a sampling of the better ones. I’m sorry I don’t know the authors. If you have any more information about their origins I’d appreciate it.


A dog, a plan, a canal: pagoda.

Rats live on no evil star.

Straw, no, too stupid a fad, I put soot on warts.

I roamed under it as a tired, nude Maori.

A man, a plan, a canal; Panama?

Unconfirmed Language Trivia

Let me just say, for the record, that I hate trivia games. I’m terrible at them. My mind just doesn’t roll that way. I am in awe of people whose minds do. This includes, “Name That Tune” types of games.

That said, I got an email this morning that was jam-packed with stupid useless trivia stuff. I separated out the language/word/production ones and present them here as undocumented trivia. Do with them what you may. And good luck at your next cocktail party.

“Stewardesses” is the longest word typed with only the left hand ..

And “lollipop” is the longest word typed with your right hand.

No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, or purple.

“Dreamt” is the only English word that ends in the letters “mt”.

There are only four words in the English language which end in “dous”: tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous.

There are two words in the English language that have all five vowels in order: “abstemious” and “facetious.”

TYPEWRITER is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of the keyboard.

A “jiffy” is an actual unit of time for 1/100th of a second.

The average person’s left hand does 56% of the typing.

The “knifey-spoony” mystery

Sarchasm : The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

knifey-spoonyBecause I have a few posts that get relatively large chunks of traffic (and so larger chunks of stupid, meaningless or inappropriate comments), I’ve set my administration of comments to “approve”. That way I can quickly mark dozens of comments and trash them all with one click instead of having to discard each one individually.

Some of you may have noticed this. It’s actually something I never thought I’d resort to because it seems kind of snooty. Personally, it bugs me when I leave a comment on someone’s blog only to get a message telling me that it is sitting somewhere awaiting “moderation.”

The honest-to-God first thought that runs through my brain when that happens is, “Well, screw you!”

Anyway, it’s strictly a time management issue here, not a censorship or control issue. As long as you’re nice about it, I’ll approve just about any coherent comment you have the time to whip up.

I hope you understand.

But today, for a few minutes, I was caught off guard with a comment left by someone wishing to remain “Anonymous,” which, normally isn’t a problem. But I didn’t understand the comment. I mean, I had absolutely no idea what the hell it meant.

Further red flags went up when I tried to Google it and found many of the sites that were referenced to be blocked by my school’s firewall.

The comment, which was was on this post, is as follows:

So, I see you’ve played “knifey-spoony” before.

Um. Huh?

If it had been on a high traffic post, which I originally thought, I wouldn’t have thought twice about trashing it. My mouse actually hovered over the delete button for a second before I thought I’d might as well at least see where it was posted. To my chagrin, the comment was under a very short post about a conversation I had with a student related to, you guessed it, a knife and a spoon.

So, like I said, I looked it up. In some circles I guess the phrase references a college drinking game using a deck of cards–not kitchen utensils. But the best reference (and I believe the real meaning as it was used in the comment) was an exchange between Bart Simpson and an Australian in a parody of the knife scene in Crocodile Dundee.

Some of you out there probably already knew this. For those of you who are still in the dark:

Australian: “You call that a knife? This is a knife!”

Bart: “That’s not a knife, that’s a spoon.”

Australian: “Alright, alright, you win. I see you’ve played knifey-spoony before.”

The Simpsons

I which case, I say, “Doh!”

And then I say to Mr. or Ms. Anonymous commenter, Bravo! Please stop back and continue sharing your wit–even if I won’t understand. It is much needed around here.

Brain Damage: A quicker path to enlightenment?

Did anyone ever tell you, “Don’t worry. Be happy!”?

Didn’t you want to punch that person in the mouth?

Lisa shook her daughter and whispered sharply.



“C’mon, honey, it’s time to get up.”

“I’m tired.”

“I know but we’ve got a lot to do today. So you have to get up now.”

“Why? What day is it?”

“It’s Saturday.”

“What are we doing today?”

“Well, you have play practice at 9:30 until I pick you up for basketball at 10:30, then at 11:30 I bring you back down to the theater until 2:00. After that we’re going to the cities. I need some fabric at the fabric store and we need to help Grandma change the sheets on her bed and clean her bathroom. Then tonight, if we get back in time, we’re going to the Johnson’s to play “Rock Band,” remember?”

“Ok, just give me a minute.”

This has become sort of a typical exchange at our house. But not with me. My nine-year-old daughter is a little more mature than I am. She can handle a barrage of info right off the bat. I can’t. Do that to me first thing in the morning and I’ll set my jaw, squint my eyes and shackle myself into a funk you’ll be lucky to coax me out of the rest of the day.

Chris, crabby? Oh, you betcha.

I’ll devote more energy worrying about missing something, or not enjoying something, or dreading something, that that’s all I’ll think about. That’s where I’ll spend the rest of my day. Easily.

I give Lisa a lot of credit. Despite the hectic schedule, she knows now that a soft voice and a general overview is all I can handle in the morning–or ever. I just can’t keep track of it all. And if I try, my circuits get hot. I’m definitely a “just-in-time” kind of guy. Just give me what I need when I need it. No more, and no sooner. Too much and my brow will crinkle and I’ll start to fret.

If you add it all up, I bet I’ve spent years worrying about stuff. Mostly stuff that is happening (or not happening) in the future.

  • Will she like me?
  • Do I fit in?
  • Will I make the team?
  • What if I fail?
  • Can I get that job?
  • Am a good husband and father?
  • Am I prepared financially?
  • Can I fix the washing machine?
  • If I can’t, can I afford someone else to do it?
  • Will the Twins get a fair trade for Santana?
  • I hope I didn’t screw up the wiring when I installed that ceiling fan.

I’m not proud of it, but it’s true. When I was growing up, my parents used to tell me to just lighten up. As I got older, people told me I was thinking too much. I envied those free spirits around me who could act without fear –like Mel Gibson in those Lethal Weapon movies.

Superheroing 101–living in the now

So anyway, fast-forward to a couple of years ago when things kind of came to a head and I, searching frantically for answers, stumbled upon some powerful ideas. They were in a book entitled The Power of Now, by Ekhart Tolle. In it, he explains with earth shattering clarity the benefits of living in the present moment, the reasons why I had trouble doing that, and most importantly, how I could move from fretting about the future to engaging in the now.

He quoted the likes of Jesus, Budda and Dylan (I think), so like a parched traveler searching for truth, I drank up every word.

Consider the lilies of the valley, for they neither spin nor toil. . .

And though the book was somewhat spiritual (or 60’s) in nature–and therefore kind of “out there” for a lot of people—it made perfect sense to me. It wasn’t easy, but with practice and discipline, I’m learning to live more in the present moment.

Brain Based Enlightenment

But what if you’re not into the hokus-pokus, of spiritual enlightenment? What if you take a more “scientific” approach? Well, if you still think anxiety is a drag (like I did), but you don’t want to go through the rigmarole of spiritual enlightenment, I might have just the answer you’ve been looking for—a totally scientific explanation of your (and my) obsessive fretting about the future–and an easy fix.

Consider the stories of these three men:

  • Phineas Gage, a railway foreman,
  • Walter Freeman, a neurologist and psychiatrist, and
  • N.N., a guy who. . .well, you’ll see.

Phineas Gage

Phineas Gage is famous because he had an accident at work one day. A big one. As a railroad foreman in 1848, one of his jobs was to run about filling holes with gunpowder, adding a fuse and then packing on sand with a tamping iron. One crisp September afternoon, Phineas looked up and was utterly taken aback when he saw a naked woman bathing in a nearby lake.

Now you have to understand–Phineas had been working on the railroad all the live long day. He was tired. He was hungry. And now he was something else. Now you understand, of course, how Phineas could be distracted enough to forget to add sand to one hole. The only problem was that without it, when his tamping iron struck the hole, it created a spark, ignited the gunpowder, and blew the rod right through his head.

Phineas Gage Understandably, Phineas hit the ground before his tamping iron did. The picture to the left is an early sketch of the path it took through his skull.

But as it turns out, Phineas was a tough son-of-a-bitch. He regained consciousness in just a few minutes. In just a few months, he went back to work, a little cranky perhaps, but none the worse for wear.

Pretty fantastic story, huh? And it’s all completely true–except for the part about the naked woman. I made that up. And as long as I’m confessing things, “a little cranky” may not have been the best choice of words either. This is what his doctor wrote about him in 1869:

Gage was fitful, irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity (which was not previously his custom), manifesting but little deference for his fellows, impatient of restraint or advice when it conflicts with his desires, at times pertinaciously obstinate, yet capricious and vacillating, devising many plans of future operations, which are no sooner arranged than they are abandoned in turn for others appearing more feasible. A child in his intellectual capacity and manifestations, he has the animal passions of a strong man. Previous to his injury, although untrained in the schools, he possessed a well-balanced mind, and was looked upon by those who knew him as a shrewd, smart businessman, very energetic and persistent in executing all his plans of operation. In this regard his mind was radically changed, so decidedly that his friends and acquaintances said he was ‘no longer Gage.

Remember that bit about his difficulty dealing with future plans. I highlighted that for a reason.

The thing is, that rod shot right through his brain, and it didn’t kill him or even leave him drooling and cross-eyed. In fact, by most medical accounts of the day, he was fine. And he lived that way another 12 years.

So, considering the extent of the violence perpetrated against poor Phineas’s noggin, it didn’t take long for scientist to start asking:

  1. “Which part of his brain did Phineas lose?” and,
  2. “Just what good does it do?”

And at the time, the best they could come up with was:

  1. “The frontal lobe (generally)” and
  2. “I guess not much.”

Walter Freeman

By 1949, those answers began to change a bit when a Portuguese physician named Antonio Egas Moniz won the Nobel Prize for Medicine after devising a procedure called the frontal lobotomy. This nifty bit of surgery (which involved slicing up areas of the frontal lobe) was remarkably effective in calming psychotic patients.

So, logically the new consensus was that the frontal lobe of the brain was good for something–making you crazy.

But it wasn’t until Walter Freeman, an American neurologist and psychiatrist, got wind of this that scrambling parts of the frontal lobe became standard treatment in stubborn cases of anxiety and depression. You’ll notice here that I did not say:

  • “. . .Freeman, a well trained surgeon, etc, etc . . .” or
  • “. . . an adequately trained surgeon . . .” or even
  • “. . . Freeman who, it is said, had once dissected a toad . . .”

Nope. I said, “. . .an American neurologist and psychiatrist . . .” which, last time I checked had very little to do with scalpels and cutting. But, God bless him, Freeman was able to find enough loopholes to overcome that. And I say that’s what makes America great, because here is a guy who, out of the back of his van, without any sort of surgical training, was able to develop a knack for driving actual ice picks through people’s eye sockets and into their brains! Obviously, as an American, I think this rocks.

Lobotomy for dummiesI can’t stress enough the fact that Freeman was not some mad scientist performing secret surgeries in his basement. He actually went on tour driving his van (dubbed the “lobotomobile”) across the nation demonstrating the procedure at state-run institutions. In fact, it’s reported in this Wikipedia article that part of his show even included “icepicking both of a patient’s eye sockets at one time — one with each hand.”

The crowds went wild.  He was the wildest, rootenist, tootenist lobotomist in the west.

All told, Freeman performed over 2,500 lobotomies from the mid ’30s to the mid 50’s. And at the time, most of his patients seemed fine–better than fine actually, when you took into account that their anxiety had miraculously vanished. If you were to meet one on the street corner or in a coffee shop, you could easily make small talk and never be the wiser. In fact, patients with frontal lobe damage passed standard IQ and memory tests with flying colors.

Problems started showing up, however, when scientists began giving these people simple puzzles or problems that involved planning. As it turns out, these folks were able to chew gum and walk and even talk at the same time but went all to pieces when you asked what they were doing later that day. When asked if they were looking forward to the weekend, they were completely baffled.


Which brings me to a conversation documented in an article by E. Tulving in Canadian Psychology in 1985 called “Memory and Consciousness.”

N.N. suffered from frontal lobe damage after a car accident in 1981.

PSYCHOLOGIST: What will you be doing tomorrow?
N.N.: I don’t know.
PSYCHOLOGIST: Do you remember the question?
N.N.: About what I’ll be doing tomorrow?
PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes, would you describe your state of mind when you try to think about it?
N.N.: Blank, I guess . . . It’s like being asleep . . . like being in a room with nothing there and having a guy tell you to go find a chair, and there’s nothing there . . . like swimming in the middle of a lake. There’s nothing to hold you up or do anything with.

and this is bad because . . .

Psychologists talk about N.N. like he’s living in some kind of hell, unable to imagine the future. Stuck in the purgatory of the present moment–like a goldfish in a bowl. But here’s the thing. He can still talk about it–in general terms. N.N. understands time. The idea of seconds, minutes and hours does not escape him. He knows that 2:00 comes “before” 3:00, and that you go to bed “after” dinner. It’s just that the future only exists for N.N. as a concept–like infinity, or heaven.

The problem I’m having here is that if you read the self-help literature, it sure sounds a lot like what N.N. is experiencing is in fact heaven–not hell–especially if you’re one of those people prone to anxiety. Damage the frontal lobe and boom–instant present. Live in the moment. How can you worry about the future when you can hardly imagine such a thing?

Sounds kind of nice actually.

And concepts like the future and the past are just that. Concepts. Ideas. Imagination. Meaning–they’re not real. You can’t touch them or measure them. You can only imagine or remember them. They exist only in your mind. This is one of the things you realize when you take the red pill and begin to see just how deep the rabbit hole is.

The frontal lobe is what distinguishes us from animals (who don’t think about the future either, by the way). Archeologists tell us it was the last part of the human brain to evolve.

So let me see if I got this straight. God gave us a frontal lobe in order to imagine the future–so that we could turn it on and make plans, implement them, and use time to be creative.

He just didn’t include an off switch.

Kinda Funny Vocabulary Test Answers

Almost every day, my students get a vocabulary word. Then, every ten days or so, they have a quiz. There are three parts to this quiz:

  1. Matching
  2. Fill in the blank, and
  3. Using in a sentence.

I’m correcting just such a test right now and thought I’d share a few of the more interesting sentences I’m getting. The vocabulary word is in bold. I should have been collecting these all along.

  • Now is the time of scrutinize.
  • One day he will congenial.
  • Don’t just citadel there, do something.
  • Will you consensus soon?
  • My old game had a doldrum because the other one is not as fun.
  • I am a citadel because I am afraid someone will attack me.
  • It is very hard to citadel in a very boring class.
  • When I was playing with obtuse, I accidentally caught a goose.
  • You have to aspire some clothing to get new ones.
  • The woman had a citadel on the little boy.
  • The man consensus his show cows every day.
  • I can not play the doldrums.
  • I aspire to pass 8th grade now, more than ever. (This from a student who failed the entire 1st semester. Note: She aced the test.)
  • I think I have a congenial.
  • I would like to have a scrutinize with you.
  • Let’s cool our feet down over by that martyr over there.

Interesting side note:

I’m often amazed that a student who has no idea how to use the word in a sentence can pass (without cheating) the rest of the quiz (matching and fill in the blank) with flying colors. Then there are those that can use it in a sentence but bomb matching and fill in the blank.