The dreaded standardized testing in dreams

I just woke up from a dream that took me back to college and high school days. The dreaded standardized testing was about to take place.

There were hundreds of us students in a large gymnasium. It was not a specific gym that I recall because it was larger than any gym I have been in. There were rows and rows of desks. Sitting at those desks were students, some I recognized from college, some I recognized from high school, most filtered into the “generic crowd” that I didn’t know.

I was seated in the back row, only a few aisles from the right-hand wall. I spotted my now-wife (when was the dream’s setting?) across the room, a few aisles from the left-hand wall and also closer to the front.

Testing proctors, whom I did not recognize, were milling about up and down the row. They handed out booklets and golf pencils. I could tell this was going to be fun… I thought to myself if we were going to be taking a test I should turn off my phone, so I removed it from my pocket and began holding the button down to turn it off. The head proctor walked up to me and made snarky comments that my phone needed to be turned off, put away, and he had better not hear it. I stammered out an objection that I was doing just that already but he walked away.

At this point, those of us in the back two rows were rotated to face the left-hand wall so that the front/stage was to our right. The room actually had a little wing off to its side in the back-right corner and it was also filled with desks. Rotating the desks put all of us in the same row. The guy now in front of me had actually rotated his desk so that we were now facing each other. He was a guy from high school that I never really interacted with and had not thought about since. We exchanged a little small talk about how unpleasant this was going to be and that was it.

Along with our exam booklets and exams, we were also given a sewing needle with a piece of silver thread through it. While I was waiting for things, I used the thread and needle to sew up a small hole in the left knee of my jeans, leaving the thread and needle dangling from that spot after the hole was stitched closed.

The head proctor walked towards our newly formed rows and said “I have 10 full-size pencils with erasers here. Only 10. Who would like one?” Almost everybody in our row raised our hand since we were some of the few that could hear his offer. He looked around, saw me, and turned to walk the row back towards the front, handing out the full-size pencils as he went.

It was at this point that one of the assistants handed out pillows down the rows. Apparently, the exam would keep going until we completed it and we would sleep in the desks over night. My small school desk was filled with the pillow and beneath it the exam booklet, a scan tron, a scratch sheet of paper, and my golf pencil sat in the pencil indent. One benefit of being in the back row and rotated was that a cabinet was to my immediate left now, trapping me in the desk, but at least it provided a spot to put my pillow, I thought to myself.

I looked down at the exam booklet but don’t remember what I read. I noticed that as I leaned forward to read the booklet and certainly as I would sit to fill out the scantron, my shadow was cast over the top of the desk. The shadow was so dark that I could not read any of the text. I leaned forward and leaned back testing the shadow confirming that this test was going to be quite a miserable experience.

I was about to ask if something could be done about the lighting when another proctor assistant worked his way up our row. He dropped a handful of dry but mold-fuzz-covered vegetables on each of our desk. Right on top of the booklet and anything else on the desks. I was glad I had set my pillow aside. I looked down in disbelief and saw carrot slices and other vegetables covered with the white fuzz of mold. We were told we would need this for a part of the exam. Don’t worry! We were given a separate mold-fuzz-covered golf pencil for this part of the exam as well. I looked around in disbelief but only remember recognizing more people as I looked. They were happy, chatting with others around them and their experience didn’t seem as miserable as mine.

That is when I woke up and escaped the dream. I don’t know what it means but I certainly see a pattern of having the deck stacked against me. As an adult, I think I was at my breaking point and would have called BS on this ridiculous scenario. I’m conflict-avoidance, so it takes a lot to get me to complain and if this was as my younger, fall-in-line self, I may not have spoken up.

If only science worked that way

We live in a cul-de-sac, so we’re trapped with only one way to go. Another household in the neighborhood walks their little dog down and around the cul-de-sac which drives our dog crazy as her territory is encroached upon.

My crazy daydream once after getting really annoyed at the daily barking was to get the urine of an aggressive animal like a lion, a bear, or a bull. I would then go out with the testosterone-loaded urine in a squirt bottle and draw a line across the road to block the cul-de-sac. The next time that neighbor tried to walk down the cul-de-sac, their little dog would pull back in fear and refuse to cross the line no matter how hard the neighbor pulled the leash. After enough days of this happening, the neighbor might finally choose a new route.

If only science worked that way.

Oh, and I’m going to need a volunteer to go collect bull, bear, or lion urine. Any volunteers?

hop bear

The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

When a thing you just found out about suddenly seems to crop up everywhere.

The illusion in which a word, a name or other thing that has recently come to one’s attention suddenly seems to appear with improbable frequency shortly afterwards (see also recency illusion). Colloquially, this illusion is known as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.


Stanford linguistics professor Arnold Zwicky coined the former term in 2006 to describe the syndrome in which a concept or thing you just found out about suddenly seems to crop up everywhere. It’s caused, he wrote, by two psychological processes. The first, selective attention, kicks in when you’re struck by a new word, thing, or idea; after that, you unconsciously keep an eye out for it, and as a result find it surprisingly often. The second process, confirmation bias, reassures you that each sighting is further proof of your impression that the thing has gained overnight omnipresence.

The considerably catchier sobriquet Baader-Meinhof phenomenon was invented in 1994 by a commenter on the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ online discussion board, who came up with it after hearing the name of the ultra-left-wing German terrorist group twice in 24 hours. The phrase became a meme on the newspaper’s boards, where it still pops up regularly, and has since spread to the wider Internet.

This term was recently used on the NBC show ‘A to Z’.

The supporting male character learns about the Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon and then hears someone else talking about it a few seconds later. “Oh, you’re describing the Baader Meinhoff phenomenon… wait, I just heard about that… Mind blown!”

And now, you’re reading about it here…

The Sam Vimes “Boots” Theory of Economic Injustice

I love a good illustration. It makes concepts easier to explain and you can extend the analogies to build an argument.

The Sam Vimes “Boots” Theory of Economic Injustice runs thus:
At the time of Men at Arms, Samuel Vimes earned thirty-eight dollars a month as a Captain of the Watch, plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots, the sort that would last years and years, cost fifty dollars. This was beyond his pocket and the most he could hope for was an affordable pair of boots costing ten dollars, which might with luck last a year or so before he would need to resort to makeshift cardboard insoles so as to prolong the moment of shelling out another ten dollars.

Therefore over a period of ten years, he might have paid out a hundred dollars on boots, twice as much as the man who could afford fifty dollars up front ten years before. And he would still have wet feet.

Without any special rancour, Vimes stretched this theory to explain why Sybil Ramkin lived twice as comfortably as he did by spending about half as much every month.

(Source: Discworld & Terry Pratchett wiki)


Henry David Thoreau has many classic quotes about seeking the simple life. ‘Unsubscribe’ is the modern day call to simplify. Some may see a subscription as unfettered access whenever desired but others may see a subscription as an obligation – an obligation to get your money’s worth, an obligation to consume everything in one sitting so you don’t have to pay the subscription the next month. As soon as we are obligated to our entertainment, we have lost.

Taking out your regular bills like a mortgage, car payments, student loans, insurance, and utilities including cell phone and Internet bills, there are still tons of services clamoring for you to subscribe. Taking each of these monthly costs and multiplying it by 12 to get your annual cost and then summing them together can show they can add up quite quickly.


Office 365, Adobe Creative Cloud


Xbox Live, PSN


Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, MLB Nation, Center Ice, NFL Sunday Ticket, Crunchyroll

Paid TV cable/satellite


Audible audiobooks

Pandora, Spotify



Do you have subscriptions you’re still paying but aren’t using?

Jonathan’s Bread Story

This is titled Jonathan’s Bread Story because my brother-in-law told Jeanne and I this story. It’s bounced around in my head since then.

An old man and old woman have been married for forty years.They love each other in every way. The years have been kind to them and they are generally happy.

Throughout their marriage, the man had always given his wife the heel of every bread loaf. Whether it was a sandwich, garlic bread, or just bread fresh from the oven, she always got the heel.

“Why can’t I ever have the soft middle of the bread?” she’d stew. “Why does he always keep the best part for himself?”

After 40 years, one day she couldn’t stand it any more. As he served her a sandwich made from store-bought bread, there was the heel as the top of her sandwich.

“Why do you always do this?” she cried. “I hate the heel. I like the soft part! I’ve only eaten it all these years to make you happy. Why can’t you ever take the heel to show you love me?!”

“I’ve always given it to you,” the man said softly, “because it’s my favorite part.”

Communication goes a long way. 40 years of tolerating could have been 40 years of happiness on both parts.

I also enjoy the added level of humor if this story were told as part of a toast.