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“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” — A. Einstein

This has been almost an Internet meme over the last few years. It’s one of the dumbest phrases I’ve ever heard. I cringe whenever I hear it. Did Albert Einstein even say it? WikiQuotes says that this famous phrase was never seen before in print until Rita Mae Brown used it in her 1983 book “Sudden Death”. Not only is this phrase idiotic, it’s also a likely fraud.

If this phrase were at all even slightly true, we would be a world full of psychopaths. And if everyone is crazy, wouldn’t THAT become the new sane?

Here’s another quote, this time from the philosopher Heraclitus, and Plato is pretty sure the man actually said it:

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. – Heraclitus

The world is constantly changing. Entropy goes downhill. The conditions in which you did something the first time are changed the next — if nothing else, you’ve changed. Isn’t trying and trying until you succeed how you progress?

For the past three years, CERN has fired a beam of muon neutrinos (one of the kinds that fall out of decaying muons) from Geneva, Switzerland to the OPERA experiment in a laboratory near Italy’s Gran Sasso mountain. After three years and billions of billions of muon neutrinos in and muon neutrinos out, for the first time, the OPERA physicists saw something else arrive in Italy. After the 450-mile, 2.4-millisecond voyage, a muon neutrino appears to have transformed into a tau neutrino.

Discover Magazine

Researchers have been firing neutrinos 450 miles through the Earth to a detector far away. After three years, the scientists have detected a neutrino in the act of spontaneously changing flavor. What does this mean? It might mean neutrinos have mass, in which case we may have just found a candidate for the mysterious dark matter that holds galaxies together.

I doubt the utterers of the phrase meant it to apply to human endeavor or scientific research, since both those things rely upon doing the same thing again and again in hopes of a different result. How DO people use it?

Tom Fishburne applies it to meetings. Same people in the same meeting again and again, expecting a different result. Seriously? I’m no fan of meetings, but the ones I attend are usually called to produce a result.

A Brewster Smythe uses Einstein’s example (and this mis-attributed quote) to come to grips with her algebra problem. Though I’m unsure how anyone could have graduated high school without having some knowledge of algebra, I don’t think it’s insane of her to keep on trying to learn. Sounds amazingly sane to me.

I’ve google’d dozens of people who use this phrase, and it’s almost always followed by something like “Then call me insane, because I’m doing it again”.

I’m switching this phrase up. From now on, here’s how I’m going to use it:

“The definition of learning is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.” – B. Holloway

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I often wonder what cats have learned about humans from their years of study.

My cat has learned enough English (she thinks) to tell me to feed her or insist she be cuddled. It’s not really English, but they are what she thinks approximate the sounds I make when I talk. Every time I talk to anyone on the phone, she is positive I am talking to her, so it’s clear she has no conception of the telephone.

I don’t know how she recognizes me when I come home. I know she assumes that anyone who enters the apartment is me, at least for a little while. When someone who is not me comes in, she’s initially social, until she figures out it’s not me. A dog would instantly know a person by their walk, scent and so on, but cats — mine, at least — take a few minutes to be sure.

Isis sometimes performs experiments to see how well I can see in the dark. She knows I can see her moving around. She occasionally lays down on something dark where she blends in. She’s putting her life on the line to gauge how well I can see.

People are far too large for cats to see all at once. They must see us in bits — feet, lap, hands — colonies of perhaps-connected body parts that collectively form a person. Maybe she thinks of Brenda’s Hands as a being entirely separate from Brenda’s Voice. Would she be at all surprised to someday find my feet in one room and the rest of me somewhere else?

If cat scientists ever finish their research and publish, we’ll finally get a decent look at those strange, immense creatures with whom cats reluctantly share ownership of the Earth.

I got a Facebook message from Phyllis Brown, who I knew back at Sony. I wonder how she’s doing…. It’s so wonderful to hear from people from the past. Sony was a fun place to work; you could be as creative as you liked.

I don’t have cable. I watch a lot of TV on Hulu, instead. Hulu has commercials to help pay the costs for not making me pay for cable — and I APPRECIATE THAT. I appreciate it so much that I have no problem watching the commercials! I am a happy consumer.

This commercial, though, leaves me bemused.

The version I found on Youtube has an opening the Hulu version does not. The Hulu version opens with three women sitting around a small table in a featureless white space. Each has a coffee cup and a small box of tissue. Heaven? Some afterlife? A dream?

The woman on the left says that looks are important. The center woman says she is looking for a chancellor or champion or something. The eldest just wants to be comfortable. It is clear they are talking about the tissue, but in terms that deliberately leave you wondering if they are just using tissue as a metaphor to talk about something else. They have definitely spent more time talking about tissue than anyone else, ever, in just those few seconds. None of them bring up what I value most about tissue, which is keeping snot off my hands. It’s as if someone asked three people, never before exposed to the concept of tissue, with no idea of its uses, to say nice things about it.

None of them touch the tissue. They could be talking about cars or cats.

A heretofore unseen fourth woman rushes in and yells, what are we talking about! Let’s dish! The women at the table admit they were just talking in vague and general terms about tissue. The fourth woman, crestfallen, says she was hoping they were talking about men. She clearly has no interest whatsoever in the tissue, which is odd, because she is in a commercial for one. Perhaps she didn’t get the direction given to the other women to appear interested in. She, despondent, skulks away.

Where did she come from? Did the other women know she was eavesdropping? Is she a metaphor for injecting earthly cares into the timeless bliss of heaven? I don’t know! Maybe these women gather in this spotless space each day to talk about men, but this day, they chose to discuss tissues instead.

Now comes the part that completely mystifies me.

The camera switches to the fourth lady, who, addressing the camera, says that if you enjoy dishing as much as she does, vote for her to be your mom. Then she holds an expression for awhile as she waits for the camera to turn away.

A title comes up directing someone to the “getmommed” web site.

WHAT THE HELL does that have to do with tissue????? I HAVE NO IDEA. I can’t figure this thing out AT ALL.

Why would I want to vote for a woman (who is either my age or younger) to be my mom? It’s the matter of factness of all this I don’t get. It’s like a standard tissue commercial suddenly veers off on a wild and surreal tangent. The fourth woman (Jessica) clearly has decided not to feign interest in tissue, and decides on a whim to try to get people to want her to be their mother.

I don’t know. I just felt I had to say something about it.

After much fiddling, I can now watch NBC, Fox, and CBS (as well as a variety of other, non-network channels) on my TV. So, I think American Idol starts in an hour, and now I can watch it!

When digital TV doesn’t work, watching programs is like watching YouTube on dialup.

I did some house cleaning and brought bags of stuff to the trash, with the car. Then I went to West Hartford and looked around.

West Hartford is the bike-friendly, vegetarian and Whole Foods-loving suburb of Hartford. It’s a lot like Carmel, if Carmel was next to a post-industrial New England city instead of Monterey. Still, for all its toniness, I’d like to move there. It’s closer to work than Manchester, and the downtown area has been recently revitalized.

I think it even has an Apple store, but I couldn’t find it. The cold front that was pushing all that warm air through the East finally arrived.

When I got home, I filled the car with gas and got out the winter coat, hat and gloves, returned the car and walked home. It was good to drive again.

It was rainy and windy yesterday and startlingly warm — well into the 50s. Clearly a cold front was pushing warm weather in front of it. It’s an old joke by now, but if global warming means weather like THIS in New England in the winter, I’m for it.

I gave the cat plenty of food and water, put a change of clothes and my toothbrush in my canvas bag, and walked over to the mall. I’d noticed that there was an Avis franchise in the Sears auto shop, and renting a car there is a heck of a lot better than having to take the bus up to the airport.

I got there, they had the car, everything was peachy until I handed over my debit card. I stopped using credit cards when I moved to Connecticut, but it turns out that’s all they wanted to take. I never had any trouble renting a car with a debit card in the past — my last trip to Virginia, I rented a car from Avis using that very same card.

The lady said it was on the website when I made the reservation. I was frozen; I didn’t have any idea how to continue from that. Flying down at that point would cost thousands of dollars. I could take a bus to the airport and try my luck with other rental agencies, I guess, but I would be hours late getting started, and I would end up with the huge, expensive, gas-guzzling cars they save to punish people without reservations.

The Avis lady decided she would take the card after all. Note to self: get a credit card and never use it. Once in the car (a silver, late-model Jetta with North Carolina plates),  I offered up the most heartfelt prayer I’ve prayed in months 🙂 I could feel the hand of God or Fate making sure everything would go well.

The weather drizzled as I headed onto I-84 into Hartford and I-91 out of it again. The steering wheel was in an odd position, so I stopped in the Wallingford rest stop and adjusted it. I also bought an overpriced bottle of Diet Coke and a crumb cake. The crumb cake earned its name by leaving crumbs all over the car. Oops.

The drizzle turned into heavy rain as I pulled into New Haven. I passed through all those southwestern Connecticut cities I’d only seen from the Metro North train before — Stamford, Bridgeport, West Port, South Port… I love the totally original city names. New Haven has its own bunch — North Haven, West Haven, East Haven…

Into New York state and down through Westchester County and lastly, into the Bronx. I waved hello to Jennifer as I passed some of the places we’d been to (including the place we bought the TV). I got a little mixed up on the Cross Bronx Expressway, but got everything sorted out and going the right way and heading into the upper level (the express level) of the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey.

Which was down to one lane, apparently, because of an accident.

I was sitting in heavy, mostly stopped, traffic for over two hours. I read my email and twitter. Listened to the radio. Thought about how much fun it would be to find a bathroom.

Eventually the accident was cleared. The bridge was very impressive. Newark, less so. I headed south on I-95/NJ Turnpike and stopped at the LAST REST STOP – THE VINCE LOMBARDI REST STOP – all capital letters, just like that. Visited the bathroom and Burger King. It was after 2PM and I was way behind schedule.

Toll was $2.35 to get off the turnpike and on to route I-78 through New Jersey. The rain turned back to drizzle as I left the coast. I stopped at a Scenic Overlook in Bridgewater Township and took a picture. It was okay, but it would have been better without the giant overflowing trashbin. I imagine the view is better in any season but winter.

The grass was brown, which was a little surprising since the grass in Connecticut always seems to be green year round, even buried in snow. Must be a different species of grass.

I crossed into Pennsylvania. Crossing the Delaware cost me $0.75, which was likely less than it cost Washington. But then, he was often caught tossing dollars across rivers, so I felt I really got a good deal.

The rain stopped and the clouds parted a little around Allenstown. I had the setting sun in my eyes as I drove through large stretches of nothing punctuated by small farming communities with hex signs on their barns.

Do hex signs work? They definitely do. There have been no recorded instances of curses or devil infestations in any livestock protected by a well-maintained hex sign. None.

I caught up with I-81 just outside Harrisburg. This road would take me out of Pennsylvania, through Maryland and West Virginia, following the line of the Blue Ridge Mountains south into Virginia.

The car was getting thirsty and I was about ready to take a break. I stopped in Shippensburg for food, gas, and to check to see how much time was left in the drive. It was just after 6PM.

Hey, look, a letter from Andrew’s lawyer!

As we have previously discussed, Andrew’s case will be continued from 1/26/2010.  The next date for his case is currently scheduled for 4/2/2010 at 1:30 PM.  I will pass on any new information to you as it is received.

HUH?

This was not previously discussed with me, Andrew or (I learned today) with the Englands (the adoptive parents of Andrew’s two brothers. They live in Virginia and visit Andrew on a regular basis). We are the entirety of the people Andrew’s lawyer talks to.

I was so upset. I left a phone message for the lawyer and replied to her email asking, basically, WTF? I parked at a Wal-Mart and started calling people. I called Jennifer, no answer. I called my friend, Tom. No answer.

I paced around the store. I bought a HD antenna for my TV so I could see if I could pull television signals right from the air, for free! And some popping corn, because Target apparently doesn’t carry it any longer, and the weather isn’t good enough to bike to Vernon for it. And a $5 movie — Election, with Reese Witherspoon.

Tom called back while I was looking for the popcorn. I bent his ear for awhile (thanks, Tom 🙂

I started back, stopping at an Arby’s in Carlisle for dinner. They closed the Arby’s here in Manchester a year ago, so I haven’t been able to eat there for awhile. I talked to Tom some more, then started retracing my way back home.

Jenn called while I was on 78 again, heading East, and we talked most of the way through Pennsylvania. Back across the Delaware — no toll going this direction. Onto the NJ Turnpike for a couple miles — and another $2.35.

Manhattan looked so beautiful from Newark. I’d have stopped and taken a picture if I had a camera capable of capturing it.

Over the George Washington Bridge. EIGHT DOLLARS???? Cost me NOTHING going the other way! Sheesh! Into Harlem and out again, horrible horrible horrible accident in the tunnel to the Bronx, thankfully going the other direction. Emergency vehicles filled the tunnel, never seen so many in one place. The line going into the tunnel stretched for miles, and those people would be sitting there much longer than I had been.

Andrew called, so I pulled off the highway at the next exit to talk. I told him about the letter from his lawyer; he blew his top. How could I blame him? We wanted to know WHO she had previously discussed this continuance with. We ranted back and forth for awhile. It was 11PM before I got back on the road.

Another $1.75 toll in Westchester. Sheesh. And finally in Connecticut once more.

I was feeling kind of wobbly at this point, but not so much that I couldn’t drive and I just wanted to get home. I arrived home safely at about 1AM. I tweeted my arrival for those who wanted to know if ambulances were scraping me off a highway somewhere, said hello to the cat, and collapsed into bed.

The new high-falutin’ TV antenna picks up three Spanish-language channels, one Spanish-language music video channel, one infomercial channel, two public television channels, a channel that was playing an anime called Spider Riders, a channel playing a show called Amen with Sherman Helmsley and Ron Glass, and a NBC channel and an NBC-PLUS channel showing weather, and that’s it.

So nothing I can watch Lost or American Idol on. What a disappointment.

The only ray of hope for the entire day is the possibility that this further delay means some sort of benefit to Andrew, some how.

– Driving directions downloaded into my Sony Reader. Though the font did end up rather smaller than I’d like, it’s readable. Since, as an E-Ink based reader, it uses no power when not changing pages, I can leave it ‘on’ the entire trip.

– Doing laundry now. I don’t know if I’ll get to Virginia in time to get a motel room; depending how it goes, I may just sleep in the car. If I drove right through without stopping, I’d get there in the evening, but I plan to stop many times.

– When I do stop, I’ll be ‘tweeting’ where I am and how it’s going, so people interested in how the almost 600 mile trip is going can check twitter.com/tipadaknife and see.

Talked to Andrew tonight. He’s feeling very down. He cut off the conversation suddenly; I don’t know if that’s because they were doing a cell check (which means — stop what you’re doing, go to your cell, NOW), or they shut off phones or he just decided to hang up or what.

My plan is to return home as soon as I can after I have been to the hearing and retrieved Andy’s personal items. His hearing is at 9; I hope to leave the Bedford area around noon, and reach NYC around 8PM, and home by 10PM. But we’ll see.

Wednesday morning, I have to do some things that need a car, so I’m going to go do these things, drop off the car (at the mall) and walk home and likely collapse into bed. But I will post and email about the hearing before I do that.

I don’t expect Andrew to be sentenced at this hearing.

The Hartford, the company I work for, will have been operating as a business for 200 years come May 5. That’s a really unimaginable stretch of time. This company counts Abraham Lincoln as a customer. When this company was started, insurance was still a very new sort of business in the colonies. When this company started, Britain still considered the Revolutionary War to be a temporary setback. It wasn’t until the War of 1812, two years later, that Britain finally recognized the United States of America as a sovereign nation.

To help us all get in the spirit of The Hartford’s bicentennial, they’ve put banners all over the place. One of the banners in the lobby reads, “Embrace Tomorrow”.

Why wait until tomorrow? Why can’t we all embrace today? Wasn’t it Alice, or was it the Mad Hatter, who said “jam yesterday and jam tomorrow but never jam today”? The only true fact of tomorrow is that tomorrow never comes.

Been falling asleep earlier and earlier each night. If I feel tired, I just lie down and go to sleep. Part of that is that I ran out of soda a few days back and have been too lazy to go to the store and get more, so I have been caffeine free for awhile. Part of it is that I want to get as much sleep as possible for the trip to Virginia.

I often finding myself zoning out as I drive long distances. When I was taking the kids to their visitation, the bi-weekly trips to Stockton were nearly killing me. I felt sure I’d fall asleep and crash and kill me and both the kids. It was a huge incentive to teach Allyson to drive so she could take over when I felt I couldn’t do it. Since then I have tried to drive as little as possible — every time I get behind the wheel of a car, I fear I’ll fall asleep and die.

This is one reason I’m not too upset by not having a car at the moment. I LIKE not driving to work. I like walking to the store, in good weather. I don’t like driving.

In this case, though, driving is cheaper and faster than air travel. It makes sense from almost any standpoint aside from that of safety. I’m terrified of the trip.

For some reason, I lost my other non-gaming blog, and somehow thought this one was gone as well. But I still have access!

I guess I can start writing again about life, etc?

I look back to the previous post and it was all about my excitement at Andrew going to college and getting started on his adult life. A year and change later, and now he’s due to be sent to jail for many years. Next Tuesday, he’ll go before a judge and please nolo contendere to talking dirty to a 13 year old girl. We expect he will be sentenced to ten years in the Virginia Pen for that. He’s already served a year.

I’ve rented a car and will drive down Monday, and start back to Connecticut after his hearing (and, I hope, a visit after). With any luck, I’ll be back in CT late that night, plop exhausted into bed, and Wednesday morning, do some errands while I have the car before I have to return it.

I promise to write! I was using Facebook for awhile, but I find that way too public.

If anyone cares, I started a new “take a crappy photo with my iPhone every day” project at Shuttercal (http://shuttercal.com/calendar/Tipa/). These pictures aren’t meant to be artistic or anything, it’s just a record of the day.

Sans catharsis , vita est quoque dolens vivo.

It was 9C when we passed The Sign at 6AM on the morning on the way to Rhode Island to negotiate with Andy’s school about possible alternative payment plans. It was 16C when we got back. Not too long ago, it was 16C in the mornings…

Fall has come, the leaves are changing colors, this has always been my favorite season.

There’s a Blue Oyster Cult song that says it best… there’s ALWAYS a BOC song for every occasion. Well, except happy occasions, I guess.

When the wind turns 
And blows the leaves from the trees
Harvest moon

I see the days grow shorter 
I feel the nights grow cold
Young people feelin’ restless 
Old people feelin’ old
I sense the darkness clearer
I feel a presence here
A change in the weather
I love this time of year

There was some anxiety when it turned out the savings account I had left in California was nearly empty (I thought I had a lot more money in it than I did), but we worked out a quarterly payment plan with New England Tech and so … Andy is signed up, registered, has his books and will be going off to school either this weekend or the next.

I am SO HAPPY this is finally settled. We’ll all have to live simply for a few years, but there’s no way I’m letting my children out of my clutches until they have college degrees. It’s just so necessary these days. Unemployment in Silicon Valley is over 6.6% now! Used to be it took about fifteen minutes to find a job there. Way back when.

Not having a degree has hurt my prospects ever since those crazy, halcyon days. After Andy gets done school, I’m flying back to California and getting Ally signed up 🙂 It’s so incredibly easy to lose momentum, always have something else that really needs to be done, never have the time or money, etc. I know all about it.

Most people I went to school (UNH) with are managers and executives. I work in software maintenance.