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The Analogist: Back in Session

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After a healthy break, I'm happy to say The Analogist is in "“ with a backlog of reader-submitted situations to be Analogized.

Does this remind you of anything or anybody? Earlier this year I convinced my law firm to let me start a law blog on our website. While it sounded like a great idea and has been fairly successful, they haven't let me scale back any of my lawyer duties. I'm working harder and longer than ever and totally drained. Now I'm almost certainly going to have to quit.

Dylan
New York, New York

It sounds like you were (metaphorically) killed by your own invention. Surprisingly, this is not uncommon. Otto Lilienthal was killed while testing a hang glider he'd invented. Franz Reichelt was killed after jumping off the Eiffel Tower to test his overcoat/parachute. William Bullock's foot was crushed by his rotary printing press and died from the subsequent infection. Wikipedia has a whole entry on this: List of inventors killed by their inventions. At least you've lived to tell your story.

After losing some key accounts, my company has laid off thirty people so far this year. Lots of good friends have been let go. There are only twenty of us left. As you'd expect, morale is low. Any analogies to make us feel better?

Name withheld
San Diego, California

This is a tough one. Watching your friends get shown the door is obviously painful. And you're all probably wondering who's next. I doubt this will help, but here's an explanation of forest rebirth posted in Muir Woods, outside San Francisco:

muirwoods.jpg

In case you're having trouble reading, the last line says, "Rather than an area of death and destruction this is a wonderful place for us to watch the rebirth of the forest. The debris [from the felled tree] created new habitat for animals, while the new gap in the canopy allows sunlight in, encouraging plant growth. This is not an end, but a beginning."

Sure, comparing your fired friends to old, dead trees is a little callous. But there's a possibility your company can turn things around. Maybe a more helpful place to look is the slogan of New York Lotto: "Hey, you never know."

* * * * *

On occasion, I will survey the audience on a situation that has me stumped. Got anything for Michael from Kansas?

An ex-girlfriend and I used to get on famously. Then, one day, she wrote to me explaining that we had to break all contact. She gave no reason, but most people close to her could only surmise that her husband felt threatened by our continued friendship. Though angry, I agreed to her request and since then have only written her trying to work out how to make this ridiculous request possible, as we frequent some of the same social circles. Since then, she's gone behind my back and very deliberately interefered with my career for fear of the two of us working in the same office. I absolutely have no interest in maintaining contact with her, but in my field options are few and it only makes sense to apply. I don't like to rinse out my sour grapes in public, is there a way to explain to our mutual friends what's happened without it sounding like I'm trying to win them over to my side?

* * * * *
Here are installments one and two of this semi-regular feature.

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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fun
How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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