Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Black vs. Black Black

Sometimes, at work, I'm presented with dilemmas which require a great deal of perspicacity. In fact, it isn't unusual for a group of us to skip our break and gather around a desk and brainstorm. It is hard work, but someone has to do it.

Yesterday I placed an order for some black material. You'd think that would be simple.

It wasn't.

This morning, the supplier wanted to know if I wanted black, or black/black.

"What is the difference?" I asked.

"Well, there is black, but the black/black is darker than the black," she explained.

"What could be darker than black?" I asked.

"Black/black is darker than black."

"Black/black isn't even a color," I accused. "Black/black is someone just saying black twice."

I could hear a pen tapping on the other end.

"I mean," I said, "you don't say blue/blue is darker than blue. You say navy blue is darker than sky blue, or periwinkle blue, or robin's egg blue. You don't just say there is blue, and there is blue/blue."

I heard a sigh. "Black/black is very black, darker than regular black."

"So what is the name of this black? It has to have a name. Is it end-of-the-world black? Or black-hole black?"

"Hmmm." I could hear her shuffling papers, as if she were looking at the data sheet. "It doesn't have a name other than black/black."

"Well, I think we want the black. But I'll check with the project manager, just in case we want the black/black."

I checked with both project managers and the document control person. This required some brainstorming and research, but it turned out we wanted the black, mostly because it was less expensive than the black/black, and more readily available.

But, it still concerned me that the manufacturer had not given the black/black a name. I mean, really. Would anyone say, "I'd like of can of gray/gray" in the Home Depot paint section?

Naturally, when I sent our supplier our answer, I also passed along this list to give to the manufacturer, as possible names for the black/black.

1. Zombie Black
2. Deep Space Black
3. New Moon on a Cloudy Night Black
4. Black Widow Black
5. Void Black
6. Absence-of-Light Black
7. Witch Hat Black (offered by Tami)
8. Doomsday Black (offered by Angela)

And what if we wanted a color darker than black/black? I offered this possibility:

1. Blackity Black Black

By the way, the above picture was taken by James Gathany and downloaded from Wikimedia commons with this note attached: This image is a work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, taken or made during the course of an employee's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

Glad they are watching out for us. Looks like their job is as difficult as mine.


Editor's Note: The supplier has become used to dealing with Melanie Sherman, and no one was hurt during the course of the above conversation.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

This is your brain

What will happen when you get older? Will you have trouble remembering things? Do you already have trouble? Are you stressed about it?

Stressing out about it isn't going to do any good. Literally. I read an article today that said stress releases a hormone called cortisol, which kills brain cells in the hippocampus (I think that was the campus where I lived during my college years--it was totally hip). This is the area of your brain where your "episodic memory" is stored.

So prolonged or frequent stress can lead to memory loss.

But here is the thing. It is said we only use 10% of our brain. I like to think of that 10% as a thriving metropolis, like New York City (and I'm the mayor). But as in NYC, there are brain cell murders going on, and drive-by shootings by the "Stress Gang." So if I started getting low on virtual memory, why wouldn't I get on and order some new cells from the suburbs of my brain (the 90%) that aren't being used, to be delivered into my memory center in the heart of my city? I mean, really, what are those brain cells in my suburbs doing, anyway?


So I did a little research and found out the brain cells I'm not currently using are all part of a National Park System in my brain, and they cannot be used for any other purpose. My brain is made up of 10% city, and 90% National Park.

Just my luck.

What are your brain suburbs doing?

Editor's Note: Melanie Sherman is aware that the 10% of the Brain myth is an urban legend. It is just that she has trouble remembering that.

Friday, September 2, 2011

When research makes you shiver in your sleep

I've been researching books written in first person with multiple viewpoints and Mel, the owner of Cover to Cover Books, has been on the lookout for me. The book she recommended was love story Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls) by Maggie Stiefvater.

I shall never forgive her.

"It is a YA book about werewolves," she said.

I cringed. I am not into werewolves, zombies or vampires. I never have been. Even as a teenager, if that had been the only types of books being cranked out, I would have stopped reading. It isn't that I have anything against them, it is just that they scare the beejeebers out of me. I prefer to be entertained rather than terrorized. I can read the newspaper if I want to be frightened.

So, I was prepared to despise the novel. It annoys me to say this, but I was swept up in the book and secretly even enjoyed it, though I'll never admit it to anyone. I could have stopped after several chapters, satisfied with my research, but I had to continue reading it. Oh there was a little too much teenage angst for me in a couple of places, but as a young adult I wouldn't have thought so. This isn't meant to be a book review, however. It is meant to tell you not to ever read the book if you are a yellow-belly, wimp, like me. The same horrible thing could to happen to you.

The night before I finished the book, I fell asleep trying not to think of the snowy, cold, werewolf haven in Mercy Falls, and I succeeded. Instead, in my dream, a friend had to go to work and asked me to watch her son. (Which might even be worse than werewolves, I admit)

"He's been complaining his head itches. Would you mind checking it?"

"Sure," I told my friend (who was somewhere off camera)

After she left, I began searching for signs of lice in the boy's hair. I started at the base of the skull and worked my way up to the crown, and was relieved to see no signs. But then I saw a patch of skin that had been torn nearly away but lay flat against the scalp. You know, when you rip a whole in your skin and you can lift a patch up, but it is still being held by one side? Yes, that kind. Those are the worst, because dirt can get trapped under them. Apparently I am a lot braver in my dreams than in real life. I decided to lift up that patch of skin to see if there was dirt under it. This was curled up under it.
It was about the size of a worm and curled under that flap, burrowed down so there wasn't even a lump on the head.

I screamed.

And woke up.

When my breathing returned to normal, I thought of purple and yellow pansies and a brown box filled with kittens until I fell back to sleep.

Now I was on the phone with the advise nurse, who was telling me I could flush out the worm myself. I just needed to mix Tourkenque (I don't know what she said...but it sounded something like tourkenque) and saline and lift the flap--

"I can't do that! It is a snake. A snake!" I said.

"I thought you said it was the size of a worm," the nurse said over the phone, sounding accusatory.

"It is the size of a worm, but it has fangs and its forked tongue keeps darting out."

"Well, you can still flush it out yourself, by..."

I woke up. This time I thought about raindrops on roses and warm woolen mittens. I reprimanded myself for continuing the dream, and gave myself a sharp warning not to do it again. I drifted off to sleep.

This time, I was at the emergency room with the miscreant boy with the snake in his head. I pleaded with someone (off camera) to get it out and they were insisting I should do it myself. "I can't do it myself," I whined. "It is a snake. And it has this huge depression in the skull where it has been skulking."

The nurse glared, like I was a bad mother for not wanting to remove my own son's snake-in-the-head. At this point, if he had been my own son, I would have disowned him, claiming I'd never seen him before, but since it was only a dream, I crooked my finger at the nurse. She sidled over, her eyes narrowed and her hands on her hips.

"What?" she snapped.

"You don't understand. If you try to make me get that snake out, you'll not only end up having to do it yourself, but you'll have to stitch up my head because I will have split it open when I fainted and crashed to the floor," I explained.

She gave me a look that said, "Paleease. Just do it."

I woke up.

This went on several more dream sessions. I woke up in the morning a mass of nerves and feeling slightly queasy.

I blame this on the werewolves of Mercy Falls and I'll ask Mel, at the bookstore, to start looking for children's picture books for me from now on. Picture books about puppies.