query: Dearest Scientists,
I have an oral law report and essay on sexual assault due wednesday...problem is, it's 8pm Tuesday night and I haven't even started! So my question is, should I fake sickness and stay home, only to have to miraculously "get better" by 6pm, when I go see the French Kicks play in Detroit? Or should I face the consequences of an unfinished report and possible reaming out by my law teacher in front of my class, followed by a night of rocking out? What should I do?!
Sarah: It's a fairly complex situation, you're right. Actually, you're on track to an answer, and of course deception is the key; you're just not taking it quite far enough. Staying home sick with the old 10 Hour Flu is sloppy, bound to raise eyebrows. You want a clean escape, and here's how to achieve it: Go to class. Listen to the other kids do their reports on sexual assault. When it's your turn, announce in a voice genle yet firm that the topic is just too sensitive for you, you're really sorry but you just couldn't do a report. Shut your eyes when you say this and allow your voice to tremble slightly. After a moment or two of silence, the class will almost definitely move on, no questions asked, and your freedom will be won.
And, Sarah... Enjoy the French Kicks!
query: Esterification lab project due in 2 days. I'm lost and I need to know why the smell changes, slight overview I guess. Salicylic acid and methanol. Acetic Acid and ethanol. Got anything?
Wow. You present us with a quandary, Shea. We're loathe to undermine your learning by simply removing this obstacle from your path altogether. Yet we'd love to just blurt out the answer BECAUSE WE TOTALLY KNOW IT CUZ IT'S TOTALLYFUCKING EASY!!!
What if we were to give you a hint? A hint written in metaphor: There was once a monk by the name of Salicyl. He was elected by the other monks in his cloister to undertake the important annual trip to Methanopolis to resupply the cloister's carefully managed stock of Acetic acid. During the weeklong journey to the capital, Salicyl decided a discreet stopover at the Olde Tyme Palace of Prostituency & Imbibation would be most in order. While there, he enjoyed the attentions of the renowned and widely-Known courtesans Clamyd and Syphil, and did in turn visit much attention upon the barrels of alkaloid-nested brock. Well, when two days hence Salicyl reached the apothecary in Methanopolis, he was in such an addled state, his body was so riddled by the infusions it had received at the Olde Timey WhooreBrothel, that he bungled the procurement and brought home to his brethren in Christ, who by this time were positively desperate for that Acetic acid, a barrel of reeking kimchi. He was sentenced by a thoroughly-piqued tribunal of his peers to 7 days of esterification in the Unholy Pit of Ethanol & Madness.
Godspeed, young scholar!
query: my friend refuses to believe in God because she says the bible is sexist. what can i say to her?
First, catch your friend off guard by agreeing with her. Say, "I'm sorry, but it's true! The Bible is very sexist!! From the powerful symbol of Eve as originating in one of Adam's little tiny ribs on through to the end, that's one sexist book!!" Then tell her that if she's going to get hung up on the sexism, though, she'll never notice all of the really BIG reasons that the Bible is dumb. Point out to her some of the tremendous inconsistencies in God's "justice"; guide her to the passages where we're told people used to routinely live in excess of 600 years; discuss the many instances when Israelite armies were commanded by God to kill not only the enemy's soldiers, but also the women, children and animals; talk about Job.
Then you could also remind her that, despite all this, the Bible is after all a mere document, one that, in its current iteration, has been subject to the longest round of The Telephone Game ever played; that it has been re-translated, redacted, weeded and expanded under the highly-partisan guidance of so many different interests that it's unlikely an official tally of collaborators is feasible, much less convenient. Which is to say that if there are particular things that bother your friend, particular aspects that seem out of date or depressingly archaic -- such as the sexism -- then she might consider chalking them up to the dated origins of the material, material that nevertheless serves a philosophy and perhaps even an entity that are very much timeless and would in themselves not likely offend even a very liberal person (not to say, of course, that merely by objecting to sexism your friend qualifies as "very liberal"), so long as that person generally adheres to some thread or another of what's considered Western thought.
All of which would tend to suggest that maybe the sexism isn't such a big deal, either because its severity shrinks when set beside the Bible's greater offenses, or because it's possible the sexism was blithely included by the all-too-human hands that actually jotted out the divine testament. But regardless of whether she buys any of that, you might also point out to your friend that whether the Bible and by extension God are sexist has nothing at all to do with whether it's authentic or whether He exists. Surely it's possible that God exists and he's a sexist? Is your friend's policy that since the Taliban is sexist, Osama bin Laden must not exist? You should be suspicious of your friend the moment she "refuses to believe in God", because you don't really refuse to believe in things -- you either believe in them or don't. We'd love to refuse to believe in bin Laden, but it would be a completely empty gesture. That's because refusing to believe somebody exists isn't the same as refusing them their existence, which is really what your friend is trying to do to God. Surely what your friend means when she says "believe in God" is "like God". She refuses to like God, because he's sexist. Unless she finds some crippling trainwreck of inconsistency in divine sexism, which would have to involve God claiming (a) that he's always honest, and (b) that sexism is wrong, and then for him to (c) go ahead and be sexist. Which would certainly call the purity of God's word into question, but then again, it would really just come down to honesty and, ultimately, likeability. And does God say you have to like him? Not really. You've got to respect him, certainly, and believe in him, obviously, and then accept his various tenets if you want to go to his after-party instead of to Hell, but like him? Not terribly necessary. If you can find a certain affinity for God, that's icing on the cake. Job sure didn't like God much, not for a while there, maybe not ever again.
Cybil! Take your friend to dinner and have a rap session! What's more fun than rappin' out about the Divine?!
query: I'm looking for some good used bookstores in the city. Where can I find some top notch establishments?
We're going to assume -- safely, we think -- that you're using 'store' in a sense synonymous with 'cache'. In which case you'll be hard-pressed to beat the Public Library at 40th Street and 5th Avenue (though NYU's library, if you can negotiate access, is also formidable).
name: pp trouble
query: I find at work that I am not able to pee in the urinal when other people are present in the restroom. No where else do I have this problem. If I'm in the process of peeing at work and someone walks in, whether i know them or not, I immediately stop. Once they leave, nature resumes where it had left off. This is quite a severely embarrassing and inconvenient problem. Please help.
Very interesting, indeed! Now, let us make sure we understand you properly: You say that whenever you are in the bathroom at work and other people are present and you try to pee, you have trouble. But nowhere else at work is this the case -- you piss freely and unencumbered no matter where you decide to unfurl, so long as that place is not the urinal. Yes... very, interesting, in, deed! Well, first and foremost, from an etiquette standpoint, so long as the higher ups don't have a problem with you whizzing in say the kitchen or the elevator or in other people's trash baskets, we say go ahead and take advantage of what we assure you is a pleasantly liberal and backward-thinking take on waste management.
Of course, in the interest of Science, it would be nice to discover why you experience attacks of modesty only in the place where you are least likely to be the subjected to public scrutiny, to wit, the w.c. Now, we're not certified psychologists, PPT -- we're not even particularly intuitive -- but with that caveat in place, we're going to cobble together the following little model of what may very well be taking place in your mind: What if what's happening is that when you go into the bathroom, you suddenly and inevitably go on alert because you know that this is the only place where people can be absolutely sure that, if you're here, you're going to the bathroom. Follow us, now. If you stop to relieve yourself on the carpet outside the mailroom, or on the CFO's chair, or just on the wall in some unadorned stretch of hallway, an onlooker would hardly be able to assume that what you're about to do is pee. Indeed, there are anywhere between one and a hundred other officially sanctioned reasons for your being there. On the other hand! If a colleague walks in on you just as you're squaring up to a urinal or even a sink, he can be fairly certain that you're about tear aside the drapes and expose the young master to sunlight -- and your mind knows this, and it CAN'T. STOP. THINKING ABOUT IT. It becomes preoccupied with the instantly incriminating fact that you are in a bathroom, standing in front of a urinal, and therefore, for anybody who's looking, are very much about peeing. Your head gets so hung up on this fact, this guilt by geography, that it completely ignores this rather crucial detail: nobody who notices is going to much care.
Now conversely, when you're about to sprinkle on some anonymous wall, your mind is thinking, "If we are spotted, we can easily make up an excuse. We can always say, 'Oh, I thought I'd draw a picture on this wall, spruce things up a bit,' or, if the urination has already begun, 'Oh, I stopped by to spruce things up a bit, and I had to pee, and so in accordance with company policy I decided to just go ahead and do it right on the wall, and in fact I'm probably going to incorporate the yellow wash into the picture I draw. But no, I didn't come by here specifically to pee -- it's not like peeing is a big deal to me or something I plan or what have you. Like the way I'd plan a night out on the town or even a trip to the supermarket -- that's not how I go about peeing.'" As to why you're so frantically obsessed with insuring that people not think you give any thought to when or where you take a piss, it can only have to do with insecurity about the fact that you ARE very very thoughtful about your urination habits -- as demonstrated by your letter to us!
Our advice? As stated: continue to avoid the restroom. Just make sure never to accept employment from a company that doesn't let employees relieve themselves wheresoever they please, or if you do, make sure they wave the rule in your contract.
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