Friday, July 28, 2006

Breakfast Cereal 101

This morning, while I was pouring myself a bowl of multi-grain Cheerios, I made a tragic mistake; in a brief absent-minded moment I miscalculated the ‘float-factor’! What is the float-factor you ask? The float-factor refers to the phenomenon where, as you pour milk into a bowl of cereal, the cereal rises, concealing the milk, and consequently making it difficult to accurately determine whether one has achieved the correct milk-to-cereal ratio. The upshot is that one may unwittingly find oneself in violation of Article 114 of the International Cornflakes Convention (ICC), the prohibition against eating cereal with a disproportionate amount of milk.

Many of my readers may be unfamiliar with the ICC (or what has come to be called the ‘Cereal Code’), so let me briefly spell out the essentials. Most breakfast cereals fall into two classes. First, there are the flake-type cereals, which manifest low milk-displacement relative to their mass. As a result, flake-type cereals have comparatively low float-factors. Second, there are the puff-type cereals which have lower density and therefore displace a much greater amount of milk relative to their mass. Consequently, puff-type cereals have very high float-factors. Cheerios, which falls into the second class, exhibits a mind-blowing level 5 float-factor, thanks in no small part to their buoyant life-preserver shape. This makes Cheerios a particularly dangerous brand of cereal for those seeking milk-cereal equilibrium.

Despite what one might think given this morning’s poor performance, I’m no tyro when it comes to creating a well-balanced breakfast bowl. However, it had been a while since I worked with a variety from the puff group. Combine my lack of practice with the fact that I was slightly distracted by the Power Rangers episode that was showing on the telly, and you’ve got a recipe for morningtide disaster! Needless to say, I was completely flummoxed when, thinking all was well, I pressed my spoon against the top of my General Mills medley only to witness the milk swirl up and swallow the entire oat, barley and wheat pasticcio. It was truly a sad moment, one that would have made John Harvey Kellogg weep … if he wasn’t so busy being dead and all that.

Those who don’t know better would attempt to remedy such a situation by simply adding more cereal. But as every seasoned cerealneer knows, once one has missed the initial window of opportunity, one can never again attain the delicate balance needed for genuine milk-cereal homeostasis. One inevitably finds oneself stuck in an endless cycle of adding more milk then more cereal then more milk (and so on) until in exasperation one is forced the throw in the spoon. Of course one could avoid all of this by pouring the milk first and then adding the cereal, a practice that many self-professed flake-o-philes engage in. However, this practice goes against every fundamental principle of proper breakfast cereal protocol and is certainly not something that any self-respecting connoisseur of the antemeridian arts would adopt.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Superman: Illegal Alien?

By Nubian Nerd
BBC News

WASHINGTON, DC—The recent Whitehouse crackdown on illegal immigration has called attention to perhaps the most arrant illegal alien of them all: Superman! Fleeing his home planet of Krypton, the soi-disant ‘Man of Steel’ crash-landed somewhere in the heartlands of rural Kansas. However, as Senate Majority leader Bill Frist observed before the House on Wednesday, “Superman crossed our galactic borders without going through the proper legal channels. He was never issued a visa or green card and it is believed that he continues to reside on American soil without appropriate documentation. We consider this conduct anything but super!”

“Superman threatens the livelihood of local superheroes,” complains a livid Captain America. “He’s stronger, faster and tougher than everyone else, and now he’s putting us all out of work!” The Flash, who was recently relieved of his position in the Justice League after receiving a memo saying he had been rendered obsolete by the equally fast red-caped wonder, also protested the outsourcing of domestic crime-fighting responsibilities to the extraterrestrial. “Two days ago he took a bullet to the forehead and didn’t even flinch!” notes the disgruntled speedster. “How are we supposed to compete with that? Trust me, you just can’t get that kind of invulnerability from being bitten by a radio-active spider or exposure to gamma-ray radiation! It’s just not fair!”

But long time friend, Batman, insists that Superman only takes the jobs that other superheroes don’t want to do. “Did you see the X-men running to save the world from that Texas-sized asteroid that was threatening to destroy the planet three months ago?” remarked the cape crusader during a recent Larry King interview. “I think not! And you want to know why? Because they’re simply not up to the challenge! But Superman is always ready for that kind of thing; he’s there to take the big jobs that other superheroes shy away from.”

Both House Democrats and members of the Krypton Survivor’s Guild argue that Kal El (Superman’s Kryptonian name) is protected by the 2005 Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act introduced by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee. But Republican officials insist that Superman is insidiously undermining the foundations of American democracy.

“He says that he stands for truth, justice and the American way,” President Bush acknowledged at a press conference on Friday. “But if he really respected our way of life, he would also respect our national borders!” Moreover, the National Security Agency (NSA) has also been investigating rumours that Superman may even be using a false identity, a very common strategy employed by individuals residing in the country illegally. “Thus far, our investigation has failed to yield any leads”, admits Lt. General Keith Alexander, director of the NSA. “But we suspect that he may be using some sort of elaborate disguise, such as a mask, a prosthetic nose, or perhaps a particularly unsightly pair of black-rimmed glasses.”

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Why My Face Hurts...

Lately, I’ve been feeling as anxious as a cat’s tail in a house full of rocking chairs. But the strange thing is that I’m not sure why. My therapist said that we philosophers tend to be very insecure. I suspect it may have something to do with how we are socialised. One of my colleagues said that his family has a longstanding tradition according to which the favourite son would become a doctor while the least favourite son would study philosophy. Can you imagine what growing up in such a home environment would do to one's self esteem? Fortunately my parents are equally proud and supportive of all their children. (Or at least that's what they told me the day my older brother graduated from medical school.)

Nevertheless, I still find myself with about as much confidence as a 40-year-old ex-nun on her wedding night. Perhaps that explains why I tend to be so indecisive. Just this morning Diane wanted to know if I would prefer eggs or pancakes, and I simply couldn’t make up my mind. Irritated, she complained if it would kill me to be decisive for once? I said maybe, but that I wasn’t sure. It was at that point that the frying pan accidentally slipped from her hand, flew across the room, and hit me in the face.