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Looking forward to the ironing

Chores aren’t high on my list of activities I like to do. I suppose that’s why they are chores. And despite my strong preference for having a clean, tidy, organised living space there are one or two chores that I put off for as long as possible. Washing the dishes is one. By the time I’ve got home, tracked, hunted, killed, cooked, and eaten my food, I’m in no mood to tidy up. Ironing is another - until recently that is.

Ironing is annoying, and I resent the fact that clothes dry with creases in them. Furthermore I resent the fact that I feel compelled to not have creases in those clothes. I resent that at the end of the week I take the by now stiff-as-a-board clothing and spend two hours gently coaxing or otherwise brutally beating them out (using methods familiar to mafia types; I am of course referring to the use of a hot iron on an unwilling agent, and not of decapitating prized examples of Equus caballus and depositing them in sacrosanct living spaces during the nocturnal hours). Ironing = two hours of listening to the ‘fsshhhhh’ of an iron, walking to and from the kitchen for water re-fills, and being bent over an ironing board who’s designer never considered that an average man is taller than the average woman, and may not subscribe to the olde-worlde view of acquiring a woman to go with their purchase of said board in order to do his ironing for him, thus resulting in a bad back after any extended period of use.

Anyway, now I look forward to my ironing - mainly because I stumbled on a couple of things which raise the enjoyment factor by a few orders of magnitude. See, I like me my education - I’m a curious type that likes to know how things work - and there ain’t not nothing half as interesting as people. Which is why I have a number of books delving into psychological matters (Mind Hacks is OK, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat is better. God Delusion, Born on a Blue Day, and Tricks of the Mind are among my other preferred material on the matter). The trouble with books is you can’t read them when you’re ironing. What I have found recently are things I can listen to - things like the University of California, San Diego lecture podcasts. UCSD is well regarded in the field and undertakes a number of world-leading psychology research fields. Plus the gent doing the lectures is a proper old English ex-army guy, which is just plain cool. I’m making my way through the PSYC 1 lectures, of which there are 9 and each is between an hour and two hours in length (just right for my ironing). I’m currently on the Sense & Perception lecture, and stacked up ready are the PSYC 102 lectures too. So far I’ve not learned much that’s new to me (psyc 1 is an introduction to the field, and I’m only on the third lecture), apart from one little bit which was fascinating: I’m familiar with phantom limb syndrome, where a person who has had the misfortune to loose a limb can experience sensation in that missing limb - but hadn’t considered what might be going on in their brain. Turns out that even though the limb is missing the brain areas are, of course, still present - just not receiving any impulses. What happens over time is the now ‘dormant’ section of brain gets ‘invaded’ by neighbouring regions (which often happen to be the bits of brain involved with sensing the face) and a little ‘cross-talk’ happens. The bits responsible for the face start to also trigger the bits of brain responsible for the missing limb - and so the person feels sensation in a limb that’s not there any more. That’s interesting - but even more interesting (and useful) is that the chronic itching that can manifest in the missing limb can be relieved by touching the face - this of course stimulates the bits of the brain involved with the face, but also cascades to the bit of the brain responsible for the missing limb too. By touching the face the person also feels a touch sensation on their missing limb!

There are a number of university lectures in the iTunes Store, the majority of which are free. I’ve also downloaded a few lessons in Mandarin with the intention of learning a little. Unfortunately I’ve never been good with languages and Mandarin is insanely hard. One word can be said in four different ‘tones’ and mean utterly different things. As a side note I think the methods used for teaching language don’t work well for me. ‘Ni how’ = ‘you good’ = ‘hello’ simply has too many steps, and involves English as a bridge to comprehension. I think I’d learn a lot quicker using the method that children naturally do, rather than pure intellectual methodology. i.e., spend a few months where everyone speaks only in Mandarin. That way I’d think, learn, and associate in Mandarin, rather than bridging languages.

Also on my ‘making ironing fun’ list is using the fantastic Miro to download vodcasts, including;

  • GeekBrief.tv, where the beautiful (and adorable) Cali Lewis spends five minutes bringing everyone up-to-date on gadget news
  • TEDtalks, which is the most amazing presentation resource I’ve ever seen. Topics presented by the worlds foremost experts on matters as diverse as charity in Africa, the abilities of bonobo’s, animal behaviour, modern design, religion, etc.
  • Hubblecast, where scientists from NASA/ESA present and discuss the findings from the Hubble telescope, giving a guided tour of the stunning images it has captured, and explaining what’s going on
  • Google TechTalks, talks at the Google campus on a wide range of topics, from MySQL optimisation, to tautology, to user experience.

So that’s why I love the internet, and why I look forward to my ironing.

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