Sunday, October 23, 2011

Odds and Ends

No, this post is not about either psychiatric patients or NFL linemen. It's Sunday morning, it's early, and I can't decide what to write about, so I thought I'd just ruminate on a few of the things I forwarded to myself over the last week or so as possible blog fodder ...

Dateline Islamabad, Pakistan: CNN reported on Friday that Secretary of State Clinton had held "frank" talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. For those of you unfamiliar with diplomatic code phrases, "frank discussions" are those in which the participants curse at each other and must be physically restrained by their aides from gouging each other's eyes out. "Frank talks" are what take place just short of deploying armed drones or bearded fanatics wearing high-explosive blazers.

You may have missed it, but another thing that occurred on Friday was the end of the world. Yes, serial doom-predictor Harold Camping yet again predicted the end of the world as we know it, having missed his last prediction back on May 21st, and a previous forecast of doom on September 6th, 1994. Oddly enough, there are still people out there who are willing to donate all they own to this bizarre fellow's "church" in the hopes of ensuring a seat on the Glowing Luxury Bus to Paradise. But even though Mr Camping may be an inept prophet, he is doing his part to improve the economy for those not "saved" - enterprising entrepreneurs have started up businesses advertising pet care services for those who are "raptured" and unable to care for Fido or Fluffy from their new condo in paradise.

Did you ever wonder why all your devices that talk to you (think iPhone, GPS unit, etc) talk in a female voice? This interesting article explains why computer voices are overwhelmingly female. It turns out that there are many good reasons, both psychological and cultural, for the use of female voices. Numerous studies over the years have shown that female voices are generally considered to be more pleasant to hear, a preference that may go all the way back to the sound of the mother's voice echoing through the womb. The use of female tones in navigation devices on aircraft dates back to a time when women were rare in the cockpit, and a feminine voice would be much more likely to be heard amid the stress of combat. Siri, the voice of the new iPhone 4S, is just the latest in a long line of ladies who tell men where to go and what to do.

And finally, speaking of women, it seems that the rules governing the line of succession to the British throne may be about to change to allow for the possibility of a woman ascending directly to the throne if she is the eldest child of the reigning sovereign. Under current traditional succession rules it is the oldest son, not the oldest child, who is considered the heir to the throne. New rules proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron would change the rules of hereditary succession to allow a daughter of Prince William and Princess Kate to be the queen, even if she has younger brothers. This is of only academic interest to those of us here in the US, although one wonders how the crowned heirs of self-designated tsars like Grover Norquist and Rush Limbaugh would be designated (shudder).

And now, it's time for breakfast and the Sunday paper. The weather here in Northern Virginia remains chilly and autumnal - great for sleeping and for long walks shuffling through drifts of leaves on the sidewalks. Enjoy it while it lasts ... I have a feeling Old Man Winter is rubbing his frosty hands in expectation of slamming us with the old white stuff soon enough.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



eViL pOp TaRt said...

The older law of succession might be a renant of the old Salic law, which made sense when a soverign was expected to lead troops into battle. Can you imagine Prince Charles in that role?

And I'm glad you defined what is "frank talks!"

Thanks for the link regarding computer voices. You can get some that sound like nagging, though. Too much realism!

Mike said...

You could have at least reminded us of the end of the world on Thursday. Now I missed it.

When is the next end?

Big Sky Heidi said...

Camping hollered "wolf" too many times for anyone to take him seriously. At any rate, this Rapture nonsense is for morons.

Siri gets asked "What are you wearing?" according to the CNN article. So that's where the old AOL chat room users went . . . .