Sunday, November 25, 2012

Things They Should Invent: give out your primary online presence rather than asking for phone numbers

Reading this Reddit thread, I was surprised how many people seem to still be subscribing to what should really be considered an old-fashioned script for hitting on people: you approach them, say something complimentary or clever, exchange some banter, and ultimately walk away with their phone number.

This is not a good script, because the stated definition of success (the approachee giving their phone number to the approacher) has the approachee bearing all the risk.  Now someone you barely know has your phone number.  You don't have their phone number, you don't know anything about them other than what they've told you during your conversation. The approacher is the one who started it, so they should bear the risk by giving their contact information to the approachee, rather than vice versa.  The standard script is really the in-person equivalent of phishing.

But the norm of giving out a phone number is also suboptimal. The phone number tells you nothing except how to contact a person.  It would be far more useful for the approacher to give the approachee the address of their primary online presence - blog, twitter, facebook, even a reddit profile is informative.  Then the approachee could vet the approacher at their leisure, see what kind of person they are, what kind of opinions they have, what they're a fan of, whether they do that annoying thing where they make elipses out of commas,,,,,etc.  If the approachee is particularly enthusiastic, they can share their primary online presence right away; if they're more hesitant, they can retain the option to vet first.

The problem with taking this approach is that it currently isn't normal.  It would come across as both arrogant and creepy-weird to walk up to someone, hand them a card, and say "Here's my website, check me out."

But if this method could be normalized, it would make approaching people both more honest and more efficient.  You wouldn't need to have a conversation to win them over, your online presence will do that for you if they're compatible.  So you can just walk up to them and write down your URL or hand over your card.  You also wouldn't have to come up with a pick up line or a clever way to make conversation or otherwise figure out a way to artificially win someone's trust enough to get them to take the risk of giving you their phone number.  You can just say "Hi, I think your red hair is gorgeous. Here's where to find me if you're interested."  If you're the approachee, you can see how attractive the approacher is when they approach you (if that's a decision factor), but you can also find out more about them at your leisure rather than having to base your decision on their charm offensive.  You'll also be able to discover core incompatibilities faster (e.g. you're childfree and they're not, they prioritize health and fitness and you would like to retain the option of letting yourself go) and thereby avoid wasting time trying to make someone who's essentially incompatible like you.

This would also allow people who are interested in doing so to move on more people in a given night.  You don't have to make an excuse to stop talking to each person, you're just politely retreating to give them space after you hand over your card, so there's nothing wrong with talking to another person afterwards (although it would come across as skeevy if you walked straight over to th enext person).  You can, of course, have an actual conversation immediately if both parties are inclined, but it's not necessary to close the deal.

At this point, you might be thinking "But a person could totally create a fake online presence!"  Yes, and a person could totally lie to someone they're trying to pick up.  But for people who are being genuine, giving out your online presence would be a far better approach than asking for the person's phone number.  This method needs to be normalized.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Things They Should Invent: computer program for choosing condo finishes

Apparently the way you choose finishes for your new condo is you actually go to a place and look at swatches and choose them that way. 

That's so 20th century!

They need instead a computer simulation where you can click on each finish and see what it would look like in your actual unit. You could view different combinations at a click of a mouse, save them and revisit them later, and even share them.

In my particular case, nearly everyone I've ever met is inexplicably enthusiastic about the possibility of choosing finishes, so I was giving very serious consideration to crowd-sourcing the whole thing.  (The part of my brain that finds randomness satisfying would appreciate that.) Unfortunately, that's not very feasible if you have to make an appointment and be at a specific place at a specific time.  However, if everyone could log in to a website and save their preferences, I could choose my finishes by pure democracy, or have everyone put together a look they like best, or have everyone put together a look and then put it to a general vote to pick the best look.

If this were sharable by social media, it could even help create buzz for the condo builder - people might start tweeting and facebooking their gorgeous future kitchens.  Plus, it would certainly be more affordable to build a real-life version of the Sims' build function (maybe it could even be done IN the Sims' build function?) than to rent and staff physical space for people to go look at swatches for every single condo a given developer builds.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Potentially reluctant fathers in Call the Midwife

Warning: this post contains spoilers for Call the Midwife episodes 3 and 6

One criticism I've seen of Call the Midwife is that episode 3 is unrealistic.  In this episode, an older couple finds themselves unexpectedly pregnant, and the mother seems less than thrilled about this development.  Partway through the episode, she confides in the midwives that she's afraid that when the baby is born it will be black.  It seems she didn't love her husband, only married him for financial security for her (now grown) children from her previous marriage, and had had a single one-night stand with a black man.  So the baby is born, and it is black.  And the mother's husband thinks it's the most adorable baby that has ever lived, and is later seen proudly pushing his pram.

Critics say that the man's immediate acceptance of a baby that clearly isn't is isn't realistic, especially for that era.  But it really worked for me as an audience member because, for that very reason, it was a totally unexpected plot twist.  I was expecting her husband to abandon her or beat her or something, or, as a longshot, have a visceral negative reaction but ultimately forgive his wife.  His utter delight at having a baby to raise came as a complete surprise, and therefore I found it narratively satisfying.

However, this affected my reaction to episode 6. In episode 6, a patient informs the midwives that she has come to London from wherever she was before to be with the father of her baby.  She is confident that he will be thrilled that she's pregnant.  He isn't home (she says he's a sailor and is at sea) so she gains entry to his flat somehow only to discover that there's no sign of life and the electricity and water isn't turned on.  And then, of course, she goes into labour there.  (And gives birth to triplets.)  And is still deliriously happy with the situation.

I was expecting her babies' father to never come back, or to turn her out of his house, or to end up already having a wife and kids.  But instead, we see her in one of the final scenes walking down the street pushing her pram, with the babies' father walking beside her and proudly carrying one of the babies.  And this struck me as unrealistic and not narratively satisfying. 

An unexpected plot twist is enjoyable, but having every single potentially reluctant father end up being thrilled with the new arrival eliminates a lot of the potential dramatic tension.  Either they should have had an unhappy new father in between these two plots, or the triplets' father's willingness to be a father should have been established earlier.  (Even though the triplets' mother's story is an impetus in Chummy's decision to move forward with her love life, they could have resolved the father's issue by having him find the mother in labour and call the midwives, and then gotten dramatic tension from a sudden delivery of undiagnosed triplets.) Creating the same dramatic tension as in episode 3 and having it resolve the same way weakens the series as a whole.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How to get rid of the colon after the comments in Blogger's "Ethereal" template

Short version: search your template's HTML for <data:post.commentLabelFull/>:, and delete the colon after the >

Detailed version:

1. Log into Blogger
2. From the More Options drop-down (just to the left of the "View Blog" button), select "Template".
3. Under "Live on Blog", click on the "Edit HTML" button.
4. A warning may pop up; click on "Proceed".
5. Check the "Expand Widget Templates" checkbox.
6. Use your browser's search function (most likely Ctrl+F) to search for <data:post.commentLabelFull/>:
7. Delete the colon after the >.
8. Click "Preview" to make sure it worked.
9. Click on "Save Template".

Friday, November 16, 2012

State of the blog template

I think I've got my new template pretty much finalized.  The only problem is the colon after the word "comments" at the bottom of each post.  I can't for the life of me figure out how to make it go away.  I even used the search function to find every colon in my template HTML, and I couldn't find any that didn't serve a specific coding purpose.  (My template is called "Ethereal", if anyone feels like trying to figure it out.) 

Update: I've just figured out how to make it go away.

Other than that, if anything is difficult to read or isn't working properly, this is the place to report it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Under construction

Currently making some changes to the template.  Any residual weirdness should be gone shortly.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Praising children's accomplishments

My Favourite Little Person recently turned 1!  I'm so proud of her!

Yes, even though it isn't actually an accomplishment, my immediate emotional response is to be proud of her. The same holds for any milestone.  She can crawl!  She can walk!  If you ask her "Where's the apple?" she'll point at the apple!  (Aside: that blows my mind - I didn't even know pre-verbal children could do that!)  I'm so proud of her!

When I'm actually in the same room as her,  my immediate emotional response to her doing anything new or new to me or successful or big-girlish is to gush.  "Wow!  Look at you!  You're walking!  **Applause**  Good girl!"  Even though  it's a perfectly normal milestone that everyone who is physically capable achieves.

There's a parenting philosophy that you shouldn't gush over kids' accomplishments when they're regular everyday accomplishments, you should save it for the truly impressive. And proponents of this philosophy seem to think that parents are gushing over kids' accomplishments in an attempt to boost the kids' self-esteem.

But based on my visceral and emotional inclination to gush about MFLP (who isn't even my own child!) I question whether it's possible for a loving parent to not gush over a small adorable child learning something new or achieving a milestone.  It seems like it would take a massive amount of restraint, and would build up an emotional wall for no good reason.

What if parents made a point of never humiliating their kids?

This post was inspired by this comic strip:

Her son is mortified by the idea of her speaking to his class, but she completely shrugs off his emotions.  Her husband might be enjoying the fact that their son is mortified, and she seems to be amused by this.

This is sort of a common cultural trope - kids are embarrassed by their parents, the parents see the kids' embarrassment as foolish and invalid, and the parents therefore take a certain delight in embarrassing their kids.  And, as a cultural trope, it's seen as all in good fun, at least by the parents.

But it seems to me that this is the kind of thing that could foster bullying attitudes.

A kid in a family like this will learn that feelings aren't worth respecting. If someone finds something humiliating, taking advantage of that fact to make them feel humiliated is normal, valid, and entertaining.  Surely no good can come of taking that attitude into the schoolyard with them!  The kid will also learn (as I did) that baseline human reality is that people want to embarrass you, and develop self-worth and defence mechanisms accordingly.

But suppose instead the parent said "I respect your feelings. If it would embarrass you, I won't do it."  And then the parent said to the teacher "It would embarrass Danny to have his mother come speak to the class, and I respect his feelings.  I'd be happy to come speak to your students in a year or two, once it would no longer bother him."

Then he would learn that respecting people's feelings is normal, and might carry that forward into the rest of the world.

Things They Should Invent: call centres call you back instead of putting you on hold

Being on hold is tiresome and tedious, especially if you don't have a speakerphone. 

Instead of putting us on hold, why not have the waiting callers' phone numbers automatically added to a callback queue, and the next available representative can call us back?  It would take up marginally more of the reps' time (although it seems like a computer could automatically take care of the dialling and connecting), but it would be better customer service and less stressful for the customers.

Why childfree people are useful to your children

Some people who are parents like to try to convince others (including the childfree) to have children. 

I think this is a strategic error on their part.

First, if I don't have children, I'm not creating competition for your child. My child would be after the same daycare spaces and university spaces and scholarships and jobs as your child. Why would you want that?

Second, if I don't have children, the resources that would be dedicated to my children have the potential of going to your children. 

Example: several months ago, the manufacturer of My Favourite Little Person's favourite cereal changed the recipe so it contained something she was allergic to.  Her parents (who, by the way, are not the kind of parents who try to convince CF people to have kids) were trying to hoard as much of the old version as possible, so I promptly went to the supermarket, bought up every box, and brought it all to them.  But if I had a baby of my own, especially if my baby had the same allergy, I would have responded to this news by buying up every box for my own baby, and MFLP would be out a few months' worth of cereal.

Another example: I was recently at a professional gathering where some of the people in attendance were new parents.  One person, who was on maternity leave, brought her baby with her.  She wanted to have an uninterrupted cup of coffee, so several people, including me, held the baby for a period of time.  I was holding him when he started fussing, and even managed to get him to stop fussing so his mother didn't have to drop everything.  But if I had a baby of my own, I wouldn't have found holding a baby to be an interesting and amusing diversion and would have instead been more interested in having my own uninterrupted cup of coffee, and that baby would have had a more stressed mommy that day.

Obviously, a few boxes of cereal and a round of fussy baby bouncing aren't life-changing.  Most of the time, my life has no impact on the children around me - positive or negative.  But when I do come in contact with the children around me, the fact that I have no children of my own allows me to be a slight positive influence in a way that wouldn't be as possible if I had kids.

Can you see my twitter feed?

My latest tweets are supposed to be appearing in the top of the left-hand column of my blog, under the cursive word "Currently".  However, I can't see them.  I can just see the link that says "Follow me on Twitter". 

Can you see them?  Which browser are you using?

Things They Should Invent: non-emasculating way to praise small penises

General societal attitude towards penises is that bigger is better.  But, given that the internal dimensions of the human body are finite, it is possible for a penis to be too big from the point of view of the person on the receiving end.  And, if you've been in that situation, you might find yourself thinking that a smaller penis would be more enjoyable.

People who have had a partner with an uncomfortably large penis are aware of this.  Based on what I've read in Savage Love comment threads, owners of uncomfortably large penises are aware of this.  But are owners of small penises aware of this?

It's not something you can tell someone.  Even putting aside the fact that comparing one lover to another is in poor taste, telling a man "Oh, your penis is so nice and small, not like my previous boyfriend's.  His was enormous, it was so uncomfortable!" is not going to make him feel good. Nor is a delighted "Oh, it's so nice and manageable!" when he takes off his pants for the first time, even though you are truly delighted about it.

The language surrounding not just small penises but also non-big penises all makes it sound like a deficiency to be compensated for. "It's not size that matters, it's what you do with it," as though not being gargantuan needs to be compensated for with skill. Even porn about small penises (or at least the first page of google results thereof) seems to have themes of humiliation and emasculation, rather than being intended to reflect the fact that viewers of various shapes and sizes may wish to see people they can identify with in porn, or the fact that sticking a projectile the size of one's forearm into a space the size of one's pinky is not necessarily everyone's idea of optimal sexiness.

This attitude of small penises as a deficiency to be made up for or an emasculating humiliation is so wholly pervasive that, even as I sit here wishing for a way to praise small penises, I feel the need to protect the dignity of those I love and have loved by explicitly stating that this whole question is purely academic for me.  I have never been in the situation of discovering that a penis is smaller than I expected.  However, I have given thought to the matter, and it occurs to me that I may well feel positively about the situation, and I would like to have the option of expressing any delight, enthusiasm, or other positive emotions I may feel at the time.

If you discover something delightful when undressing your lover but do not feel you can comment positively on it (or, if you want to make a positive comment, you have to do so in a way that could imply you mean the opposite of what you really do), we have a cultural problem and a linguistic problem.  We need to figure out how to fix it. 

Coping tips for a young introvert

 From a recent Dear Prudence chat:
Hi Prudie, My family is rather large (45 people on average for Thanksgiving) and my husband's parents are divorced and we try to see both of them at some point over the weekend. Our kids are 13, 11, and eight and in the past have seemed to enjoy spending the holiday weekend this way. Yesterday my 11-year-old daughter told me that she wants a "quiet" holiday. We have noticed that she is getting increasingly introverted over the past year or so, more likely to read by herself than play with her brothers and cousins. She told me that there are "too many people and too much driving." My husband and I are party-loving extroverts, so house hopping and driving six+ hours over the weekend is no big deal to us. But my daughter doesn't complain often and I know if she brings something up it is legitimately important to her. In small groups, and especially one-on-one, my daughter is a delight: creative, funny, and very smart. But in big groups she just fades into the background, possibly counting down the minutes until she can read by herself again. How do I balance my daughter's request that we tone things down with a) reasonable expectations from family to see us, b) the rest of my immediate family's love of going all-out, and c) not making the holiday all about her. My daughter's personality is so different from the rest of us that I don't know how to meet everybody's needs at once. Any advice? Any introverts want to chime in?

In addition to Prudie's answer, I have some ideas:

- First of all, don't worry about the fact that she's fading into the background!  That's not a problem.  She doesn't need to be the star.  She's there, she's doing her duty, she's not being rude to anyone, that's sufficient.  Work with her on managing the situation so she doesn't get overly drained and melt down, work on giving her options for respites and recharging, protect and advocate for her within the family, but don't worry that she isn't the star of the family dinner table.  Civil and emotionally neutral is sufficient.

- In terms of specific strategies, is there a job she could do that would take her away from everyone else?  A dog that needs walking?  A sleeping baby that needs to be checked on?  Something that needs to be fetched from the garage?

- Is it possible for her to spend a small amount of time (like 10 minutes) in the car alone while everyone else is in the house?  You could have a code "I need to get something out of the car", give her the keys, and let her get in the back and decompress.  If anyone comes out to check on her, she could be rummaging through a bag that's in the car.  (Besides, anyone who catches an 11-year-old girl secretively getting something out of the car is just going to assume that she got her period.)

- Set a schedule, tell her what it is, and stick to it.  "We're going to Auntie Em's for dinner at 6, and we'll leave by 10."  It's much more bearable when you know when it's going to end.

- If the house is big enough to have multiple bathrooms, when she needs a break she could use the upstairs bathroom.  The two-storey suburban houses in my family have a small powder room downstairs, and a full bathroom upstairs that's the family's primary bathroom (for showering, brushing teeth, etc.) but isn't in any of the bedrooms.  (There's often also an ensuite in the master bedroom.)  Usually guests use the downstairs bathroom, but when there's a lot of people in the house and it's family, you might use the upstairs bathroom if the downstairs bathroom is occupied.  This would be quieter and give you a moment alone.  You can pretty much stay in there until you hear someone coming up the stairs, and then you have the excuse "Oh, the downstairs bathroom was occupied and I couldn't wait." (Again, they'll just assume that she got her period.)

- If there is an unoccupied "public" room of the house (i.e. not someone's bedroom), she could go hang out there and, if someone comes and asks her what she's doing, she could say "Oh, I was just admiring this picture on the wall.  What's the story behind it?"  Practise plausible scripts with her, so she can turn being "caught" being alone into a pleasant sociable conversation-starter.

- If the trip involves overnight stays, can you stay in a hotel rather than with relatives?  Since the letter mentions the introvert daughter as having "brothers", that would mean she's the only girl, so she should at least be able to get her own bed.  If you can manage a suite instead of a room, maybe she could get her own room (girls going through puberty do start needing privacy from their brothers, after all), or sleep alone in the living-room area of the suite.  If you have to stay with relatives, think about how to give her her own space to sleep. Maybe she'd prefer sleeping on the couch in the den rather than on her cousin's floor?

- Can you host, maybe every other year or so?  That would spare your daughter the driving time and give her the option of retreating to her own room.

- Does she have a smartphone?  (Or will she within the next couple of years?) Since she likes to read, maybe she could put an ebook reader app on her phone, and, when she gets a chance to duck into a quiet room, read that way.  It gives the appearance that she's  just sending a quick text or something, whereas sitting with an actual book implies that you've settled in for a while.  People might still think she's rude for ducking into another room and texting during a family event, but I think if she can give the impression that she's just finishing up when someone notices her, it shouldn't go over too badly.

- Try to give her at least one day off during the weekend.  I always find going straight from an action-packed weekend to a full week of work (or, worse, school) is practically unbearable.  I need at least one day to sleep in and lounge around at home doing nothing.  If it's not possible to have a day off during the weekend, maybe let her stay home "sick" on the first day back.  (You could tell her brothers she really is sick if they're likely to want a free sick day too.  Again, they'll just assume she has her period.)

- Depending on the personalities involved, you might consider strategically outing her as an introvert to key family members.   Don't make it a big "We need to talk" with undertones of shamefulness.  Break the news with enthusiasm for the revelation and sympathy for your daughter.  "I was just reading this book, and I realized that Daughter is an introvert.  You know how we love seeing the whole family over the holidays and get energized and recharged from it?  Turns out all this time this has been draining to her, poor kid!"  If one key member of each household you're visiting is aware of her needs (and isn't going to use this information to give her shit), maybe they can help with things like letting her walk the dog or giving her more private sleeping arrangements, or at the very least not meddle and nag if they ever spot her catching a moment's privacy.

- Prudie recommends the book Quiet by Susan Cain.  It is useful, bit I found Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney even more useful. It includes a technical (but understandable) description of the neurology behind introversion, and specific strategies for introverts in extroverted families.

False ego boosting

As you've probably figured out from reading my blog, the most effective way to stroke my ego is to target intelligence.  The people I was working with while buying my condo, being experienced professionals who work with people making major life decisions every day, were savvy enough to spot this.  So they tried to flatter my intelligence by telling me, at various points during the course of our two hours together, that I was asking all the right questions and that I was really good and together compared with other clients they have and that the fact that I know exactly what I want is impressive.

But I know full well that I wasn't being especially smart or together or impressive, I was just muddling through and asking every stupid question that popped into my head (thank you Entitlement!).  They were also laughing at every quasi-humorous statement I made as though it were laugh-worthy, which I know full well it isn't.

I hate it when people do that!

It's irritating because I know that they're faking, but I can't call them out on it ("Stop laughing at my jokes!") and pretty much have to go along because they're using it as a social lubricant and I want the interpersonal aspect of the situation to go smoothly too.  But after I'm exposed to this enough, even with my awareness of what they're doing, it starts working on me and I become increasingly manipulable.

It wasn't terribly relevant for this condo purchase because I already knew exactly what I wanted and just needed to be walked through the process and have my questions answered, but normally in nervous major purchase/major life decision situations, there's some room for salesmanship, so I need to avoid being manipulated but still keep the interpersonal aspect of the situation working smoothly.

News and such

So the big news, and the reason why I've been quiet lately, is that I bought a condo yesterday.  It was the same one I was interested in here - turns out I can afford it now. And, despite the fact that seven months have passed, I still got the unit I wanted. So it seems like their inconsiderate presale strategy had the unexpected advantage of letting me keep a large portion of my life's savings in my own accounts for a few months longer.

This kind of good luck makes me nervous. The other shoe will have to drop sometime.

In my typical way, I was more nervous about having to go to the place and talk to the people than I was about a massive decades-long financial commitment.  So I'm less nervous now that I've met the people and they're working for me now.  But I'm still in the internalized and self-obsessed place.  I allowed myself a completely indulgent day yesterday.  And, honestly, I don't want to be blogathoning today, I want to keep obsessing and eating comfort food.  So I'm making myself blogathon in an attempt to forcibly externalize.  This is probably going to end up being a poor-quality blogathon.

Good morning!

Here's what I'm doing today and why.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The moment I realized I was an adult

There's been a meme circulating the internet lately where you describe the moment when you first realized you're an adult.

I've had a number of these in my life.  There was the time my 19-year-old self missed the entrance exam for the translation program, called them up and talked them into letting me retake it, and travelled to Toronto by myself for the first time in my life to do so.  There was the time, early in my current job, when I successfully did serious and hardcore research to translate a text in a field I knew nothing about and my reviser didn't even comment on it, leading me to realize that I now inhabited a milieu where we are simply expected to be competent.  But the most recent time when I realized I'm an adult was just after I bought my Bruce Springsteen tickets.

I asked around to find out who wanted to go with me and I had a number of non-committal expressions of interest, but, as of the day when tickets went on sale, I had no firm commitments.  But I wanted to go, and I didn't want to go alone.  So I bought two tickets.

At that point, I realized, I could do whatever I wanted and no one would ever know.  I could go with a friend. I could go with a casual acquaintance.  I could go with a co-worker or family member or friend of a friend.  If I was reduced to trying to find some random person to go with, I could tell them that a friend had agreed to go and then had to back out at the last minute.  If I was desperate, I could eat the cost and tell them my friend had already paid for it.  I could sell the extra ticket and sit next to some random stranger.  I could sell both tickets and probably turn a profit.  I could even chicken out completely, eat the cost of both tickets, and just not go, leaving two mysterious empty seats on the 100 level.  And no one would ever know that I bought tickets without a friend to go with, or even that I bought tickets at all, unless I chose to tell them.

When I was a kid, this wasn't an option.  If I wanted to go to something, I had to get parental permission for where I was going and who I was going with.  If I didn't have a friend to go with, my parents would know, which meant my sister would know (and make fun of me for it), which meant my peers would know (and make fun of me for it).  If I asked around trying to find someone to go with, people would know that I didn't have someone to go with, which my peers might make fun of me for.  If I chickened out at the last minute, I'd get lectured by my parents for chickening out (and possibly forced to go anyway, to my humiliation) and possibly made fun of by my sister for not having friends.  Because our house has unforgiving acoustics, sneaking out wasn't possible, and staying home without my family knowing wasn't possible.

But here in true adulthood, I can buy tickets without having to go, I can go without having to prearrange a friend to go with, and I can keep whatever aspects I want private from whomever I want, all without at any point being shamed for not having plans fall perfectly into place.

And, best of all, after all this angst I ended up being able to share the experience of my very first Bruce Springsteen concert with a true friend!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

"Hearts as both and cars"

My iTunes started playing the Disney song "I'm Professor Ludwig von Drake", and there was a line I couldn't hear clearly.  I googled it, and got:

I know all about atomic energy
hearts as both and cars and bio chemistry
"Hearts as both and cars"?  That doesn't make any sense.  The first dozen or so google results seemed unanimous, but there's no possible way that's the lyric.

Upon further selective googling, I found, and decided I agree with, this TVTropes page:  "horses, boats and cars."

I know all about atomic energy
Horses, boats and cars and biochemistry
but when it comes to brain surgery then I can only do swell.

 And now I'm blogging it in the hopes of increasing the googleability of the correct lyrics.