Stupid Tuesday questions, Freedom 90 edition

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.

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72 Responses

  1. Glyph says:

    Probably something record-related. I have a friend that can perfectly recall Rolling Stone letter grades for many albums released in the 80’s and 90’s (and I have checked his work).

    I never worked in a bookstore, but I worked in the mall from the time I was 18 until I was 24 or so, and I would spend most breaks and lunches at the bookstore. I would read entire long novels there, a few pages per break.Report

  2. NewDealer says:

    Tough question.

    I sort of consider myself to be a failed academic/artist and somewhat successful lawyer. I’m also exactly the type of person for whom a small liberal arts college education was designed for. Happiness is a course catalogue. Hence I have a lot of knowledge in the arts and humanities and such. This tends to impress/intimidate people. On a second date with one woman last year, we went to the Legion of Honor/Fine Arts Museum in SF and she was kind of wowed by that I could recall minor Greek myths by heart. Not the major stories but Endymion and Selene.

    I’m also a firm believer in education for the sake of education and have rather strong and unpopular opinions about the over practicalization/vocationalization of college/university education. I’m a bit baffled by 18 year olds who choose to study very practical subjects like marketing, accounting, business, supply side management. Don’t they have any passions or interests? Does English class just fill them with tears of boredom? On the other hand, maybe they were more practical than me and are more easily employable.

    So I get into a lot of debates where people tell me that studying the arts and humanities is a privilege and only for the rich and look at me like a lording aristocrat. Others have told me that they could study and read on their own and did not need English 101 or the seminar table. While I know a lot of people who are wealthy enough to be “independently employed in the arts”, I also had a lot of friends in college and grad school who grew up nearly destitute and still managed to study the arts and humanities in undergrad and beyond.

    In short, I guess a lot of people would say that my entire arts and humanities background is largely worthless but I strongly disagree.Report

    • I not only know about Endymion and Selene, I know that Tithonus ends up as a cricket.

      Greek mythology is another area where I have a preposterous recall of useless facts, but those at least have some vague cultural resonance. It is unlikely that I will ever recognize a reference to Karen Mulder in a sonnet.

      If you disagree that something is worthless, then it doesn’t count. It has to be something that you know and that you recognize yourself as being patently without any value whatsoever.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        I’m the knowledge equivalent of a hoarder. None of it is worthless to me 🙂

        I would say your example is not worthless because you clearly associate it with your identity and teenage years. It has partially Proustian rootings.Report

      • Kim in reply to Russell Saunders says:

        Two things stop me from giving you some of my worthless knowledge.
        1) the incident has been erased.
        2) you wouldn’t believe me.

        Truth, as they say, is ever so much more implausible than fiction.Report

    • Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

      Recalling minor myths is just part of the job description for a friend of mine.

      You’ve never heard someone wax poetic about finding loopholes and little accounting tricks… It’s, actually, kinda fun to see someone passionate about something so prosaic.Report

    • dhex in reply to NewDealer says:

      you assume marketing isn’t fun, bro. (it is!)

      i alphabetize my albums and then place them in chronological order. and can do this 90% from memory. including lps and eps released in the same year from the same artist.

      my big hang up is how to handle side projects – do you stick with your alpha order or do some side projects contain so much of one artist (e.g. bonny prince billy / palace music) that it’s simply an extension of their body of work and thus goes in chronologically. i am not really sure how to do this best yet, despite being at it for a few decades now.Report

      • Kim in reply to dhex says:

        Marketing is only fun when you use 9-11 footage in it.Report

      • Glyph in reply to dhex says:


        it’s simply an extension of their body of work and thus goes in chronologically.

        Good god man, project name is inviolate; it is atomic, and cannot be split! That way lies madness!

        But I feel your pain. Which is why I sometimes append side projects after whatever I consider the “main” or parent project. Which violates alpha (and could theoretically violate chronology, depending on which releases I own, though in practice I don’t believe this has ever occurred). Can also be problematic for collaborations.

        The real question is, are you 100% alpha/chron, or do you separate genres taxonomically (I do: ex. my electronic stuff is separate from pop/rock, but many dance/disco type bands are judgement calls, and may go under either pop/rock or electronic, mostly depending on amount of vocals and how the vocals are treated)?

        I may have mentioned that I used to use a custom system known only to me (though my wife got it), but past a certain size it got way too unwieldy to maintain.Report

      • dhex in reply to dhex says:

        “Marketing is only fun when you use 9-11 footage in it.”

        this from the person who cannot possibly stop trying to make pittsburgh happen, no matter the topic?

        i can’t do separation by genre, in part because the categories are too capricious to use. ok so figure you go

        electronic > idm > glitch


        or is it electronic > glitch > idm to separate out stuff like oval who are probably more properly understood as experimental/annoying.

        however, i do separate broadly by genre with my digital collection, most of which is my cds ripped to flac or (these days) bought directly from the artist (preferably in flac.) but it’s kind of a nonsensical separation, with electronic being divided into “ambient”, “classic”, “spazz”, “technoid” and “what”. (e.g. eno is ambient; autechre is classic; venetian snares is spazz, speedy j is technoid and coil is what)

        it’s a sticky issue, to be sure.Report

      • Glyph in reply to dhex says:

        Oh man, I used to get that crazy in my custom system…and I’d use hybrids as links (like, Pole could function as a bridge between a section of “glitch” and one of “dub”). But now, broadly, ambient, IDM, glitch, techno, electro, etc. are just all together alpha by artist under the “electronic” side of the shelves.

        I haven’t messed much with classification on the digital side.Report

      • dhex in reply to dhex says:


        i think there’s a case to be made that too broad a classification system (rock / electronic / pop) is useless as a sorting system, especially with hybrids. where does genghis tron go? what about, i dunno, cluster? etc.

        i once accidentally bored the living life out of this poor friend of a friend on this topic many a year ago (the issue at hand was the gescom minidisc; did it get sorted differently because it was a pain in the butt size-wise? or due to format? etc.) and he finally got up the courage to ask where his gorillaz cds would go. i said “that’s easy – the trash”.

        in my defense i was very drunk. but also in my defense, gorillaz.Report

      • Glyph in reply to dhex says:

        Yeah, but you have to balance the utility of the sort, against the physical realities of the space. If you’ve allocated x amount of space to, say, glitch, and you overrun your glitch space, you not only have to rearrange glitch, but whatever neighboring genres have to have their borders redrawn to accommodate glitch overflow. And after a certain point, that gets tedious.

        The broader the classification, the more forgiving its internal space allocation requirements are, which means less time spent rearranging (fun in a small to medium size collection, but in a large one, more trouble than it’s worth – like moving house every couple months).

        But yeah, even as broad as I have it now, stuff still gets screwy. Drone-y stuff primarily produced using guitars? Probably under rock. Produced primarily using synths? Probably under electronic.

        Who would be able to tell the difference between them, or care, besides me? Probably nobody.Report

      • Chris in reply to dhex says:

        Vinyl engineering?Report

      • Glyph in reply to dhex says:

        Yeah, basically (well, CD’s too, so plastics as well) .

        Too many genres means too many space allocation requirement variables to track on the fly, and offers too many decision points, resulting in too much time spent agonizing over proper filing.Report

      • dhex in reply to dhex says:

        “But yeah, even as broad as I have it now, stuff still gets screwy. Drone-y stuff primarily produced using guitars? Probably under rock. Produced primarily using synths? Probably under electronic.”

        yeah but what do you do with the pansonic/charlamagne palestine mort aux vaches cd? it’s both! 🙂

        i used to tell my wife (who does not understand this, though she orgs books by period, then author, non-chron) that my musical taxonomy was actually an attempt to approximate my relation to the creative mind manifested as artifacts in the physical world. and the rearrangement of these artifacts was a one sided dialogue comprised of emotional and aesthetic reactions filtered through a verbal mesh.

        she asked if i was stoned.Report

  3. Patrick says:

    Aside from all the movie dialogue?

    I know that it takes (about) fifty quadrillion pounds of antimatter to blow up the Earth.Report

  4. Chris says:

    what is the single most utterly worthless thing you know?

    This is my answer to many of your questions, but how much time ya got? Let’s start with the Civil War, the 30 Years War, and World War One, and move on from there. It’s not for nothing that my girlfriend jokingly calls me Cliff Clavin.Report

  5. J@m3z Aitch says:

    Area codes, from my days taking orders for pool supplies by phone. It was once semi-useful information, but they don’t really matter much anymore.Report

  6. Mike Schilling says:

    When the Giants (very, very stupidly) traded Jack Clark to the Cardinals in 1985, in return they got Jose Uribe, David Green, Dave LaPoint, and Gary Rajsiche.

    I can also, for any Beatles song, tell you which album it was on (if any) in both the US and the UK (e.g I Saw Her Standing There: Please Please Me in the UK, Meet The Beatles in the US.)Report

  7. Kazzy says:

    I remember far too many useless sports moments. Does anyone remember the time Joe Orsulak tried to dig a ball out of the corner in a windy Shea stadium and ended up with a handful of papers which he then tried to fire into the infield only to have the papers fly back in his face? Because I do. Vividly.

    I’m also convinced that every real life situated can be related to either “The Simpsons” or “Seinfeld”. And I try to prove this. Constantly.

    Did you know that the ‘dot’ atop the lowercase i and j is called a tittle? I did.Report

  8. Tod Kelly says:

    I’m no longer a Trekkie, but I was as a kid, and I can still remember the actual titles of all the classic series episodes.

    I tend to remember everything about music I’ve really listened to, even I’ve I’ve only really listened to it once… not just the artist or composer or lyrics (if there are any), but base lines, drum fills, counter melodies, chord progressions, etc. I have been told this is unusual.Report

  9. LeeEsq says:

    I can remember a lot of dialog and scenes from Airplane. Not all of it but a lot of it.Report

  10. Jaybird says:

    This is one of those things where getting a grownup job has really cramped my style.

    D&D, Pro Wrestling, Batman… I used to be able to rattle off trivia like hit dice, undercards, and bit players.

    Sadly, I’ve become a collector who never cracks the case of the stuff he buys.Report

  11. Damon says:

    That I can identify most star trek quotes by series.Report

  12. Katie says:

    I remember my sister’s phone number from her first year of college back in 1979. So useful.Report

  13. Johanna says:

    I took a travel agent class in high school (glad I didn’t choose that field)- I still remember airport codes for random airports across the globe.Report

  14. Burt Likko says:

    I remember that George Glass was Jan Brady’s fake boyfriend, and this was a long time before Lennay Kekua was Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend.Report

  15. Darwy says:


    I can recite the first 18 lines of the General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales by heart….in Middle English.

    It was a required task for senior year English back in HS… and I’d rather not admit to how many years ago that was. I also remember parts of Hamlet which I was required to memorize.

    But the Middle English is truly useless.Report

  16. Brian HK says:

    FYI – that issue was the 100th “Anniversary” issue.

    I look at knowing the supermodels names as a victory that my memory is still intact…..

    Sadly, My knowledge bleeds from 100th issue to all of the big moments back then…..the george michael videos, all of the episodes of style with elsa klench or cindy on MTV and even Fashion Television………Report

  17. Michael Cain says:

    I remember enough of the APL programming language to still write code for the 25-year-old toy interpreter that I’ve ported to whatever computer is on my desk (and even a toy interpreter on 32-bit hardware can do non-toy things). And enough of the vagaries of 25-year-old C to do the porting. Although, since the wife has said I should order a Nexus 7 in honor of the impending 60th birthday and Christmas, and there are C compilers and terminal windows for Android, I suppose I get the chance to be the world’s only Android APL\11 user. So maybe it’s not so worthless….Report

  18. Maribou says:

    I used to resent and find useless all the biochem / molecular bio knowledge I’d accumulated (mostly because it shoved other far more interesting things out of my brain). But I’ve actually been able to help students better a couple of times in the last few years, because of it, so I’m not sure I have an answer to your question anymore. I tend to forget things quickly if I don’t have a reason to remember them.Report

  19. Kyle Cupp says:

    Some really, really awful Christian music lyrics. Which are now stuck in my head. So thank you for that.Report

  20. North says:

    Jingles. Oh the horror of Jingles. I have an abominable memory but if you set something to a tune I’ll remember it for eternity.
    “If you’re a person on the go write down this number,
    it’s the key to travelling quick,
    it’s Casino Taxi’s number,
    or 425-6666”Report

    • Patrick in reply to North says:

      Pete Ellis Dodge
      1095 West El Camino Real

    • Mike Schilling in reply to North says:

      Give him Dr. Ross dog food, do him a favor
      It’s got more meat, so it’s got more flavor
      It’s got more meat, to make it taste the way it should
      Dr Ross dog food is doggone good.Report

    • rexknobus in reply to North says:

      mid-60s. TV commercial for Rath’s hot dogs. A quartet of people dressed like Native Americans, playing guitars a la the Beatles in a forest, energetically bouncing and singing (dear god, I can remember it so clearly):

      “Eat Rath’s wieners, come on strong,
      Heap big energy all day long,
      Rath Blackhawk wieners for lunch or snack,
      Heap big flavor in every pack!”

      Make it go away. MAKE IT GO AWAY!Report

  21. Zac says:

    I am such a font of useless knowledge that it’s hard to pick just one thing. But off the top of my head, I’d go with this one, if only because I’ve known about it since I was a small child:

    Spiro Agnew, Nixon’s veep, can have the letters in his name re-arranged to spell “grow a penis”.Report

  22. NewDealer says:


    I thought of one! I know the difference between a Derby and Oxford shoe is where the eyelet tabs are placed. In an Oxford, they are under the vamp. On a Derby shoe, they are on top of the vamp.

    All this would do is make me a character in a modern-day comedy of manners. “My god! Did you see he was wearing Derbies! The Holiday kafeklatch clearly called for Oxfords.”Report