Pavlov’s dog, and other mistaken desserts.

I consider myself a high-brow culture sort of person.  Sure, I’m not completely suave, but I feel like my intellect more than compensates for some of my less socially acceptable faux pas.  I like knowing lexicon.  I like considering myself on the ‘inside’ of a situation.

For that reason, for some time, I’ve been a fan of a dessert called ‘Pavlova’.  I first encountered the dessert during my six week stay in Australia.  I was in high school at the time, but even then I considered myself intellectually ascendant.  When I returned to the States and no one had heard of this meringue crust with fruit and whipped cream, I consoled myself with my more worldly experiences.  Still, I would’ve liked to find at least one person who knew what I was talking about.

Of course, those who I introduced this dessert to assumed some association with Pavlov.  I supposed they could be right – such a dessert could be a ‘reward’ in his system.  I didn’t know enough to question that judgement.  Tonight, however, I found out it was wrong – it took a sci fi novel to tell me different.  According to Eric Flint and Virginia DeMarce (via Carl in 1634: The Ram Rebellion), Pavlova was a desert in memory of a ballerina.  It commemorated the tour of Anna Pavlova in both Australia and New Zealand.

Without science fiction, I would never have had confirmation of the existence of this dessert in the written record.  Without my prolific reading, I would never have rediscovered it.  I’m not saying that such a little factoid has made my life complete.  I’m merely showcasing the interactions of chance in each of our lives.  I do not pretend to know what far-reaching consequence that chance may have.

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Baba Yaga.

In a world of ever – increasing scientific potential, fairy tales do come true.  When I say ‘fairy tales’ I mean that to include fables and folk stories, and I’m not limiting myself to the children’s variety.  One of the key figures in such tales is a witch whose house stands on chicken legs.  The house has the power to move itself through the woods or orient itself differently, as the situation demands.  It can squat for easy access or stand imperiously aloof from intruders.  The house, like the witch herself, isn’t necessarily bad in all of the stories – she simply is, a factor of the environment, like a tree or a rock.  Certain rules must be followed while dealing with her, thought there are occasional allowances for rule-breaking.

As a part of a collaborative project, MIT has now created a ‘mobile home’ of this sort itself.  Though this home features six legs instead of two and is shaped even more oddly that Baba Yaga’s, it remains an entity unto itself.  Researchers state that a part of the intention behind the design was to inspire ‘nomadic excursions’ without detriment to the environment (the house is solar powered).  But I wonder at the implications of renewed and easy movement for those of us who are generationally quite equipped to handle fast-moving change.  Do we lose something with that mobility?  Do we become something witchlike, other, outside the normal sphere of life?  OR does the meaning of home simply change?

Madame Mimms

At times, life is stranger than fiction.  It might seem like a ridiculous jokey story to have a drunk and disorderly airline passenger falling all over a blind person and messing with their hair.  It might also seem funny that flight attendants attempting to restrain said unruly passenger would be unable to cuff her, and would be forced to use duct tape, instead.  But, in this case, the ridiculousness is true.  Maybe induced by drinking, maybe by some other unknown illness or problem, there was such an unruly passenger on a recent flight that had to be diverted to North Carolina to deal with her.

Truth may also be stranger than fiction in additional ways.  The lawyer for the defense of the unruly passenger is one Julia Mimms.  It just makes me wonder if, when she does make a statement, she’ll be in a red skirt, her purply hair cut to round out her head.