Do Two Turns, Unload, and Go to the Moon

Hulu’s currently showing Speed and Angels, a documentary about two Navy officers training to be fighter pilots.

Officer 1: What if I reverse into a T circle, get us high, and then I keep sight.

Officer 2: Probably not.  That would be a bad game plan (because of the visibility).  That’s a huge factor — obviously “lose sight, lose the fight.”  It’s the oldest lesson of dogfighting.  If I were fighting a tomcat I’d just do two turns with an F-5, get him below his vertical airspeed, and then just like unload for a half a second, and then just go to the moon, come back, and pick your reentry.

Duh.  Even I know that.

(Okay, not really.  I understood each of the individual words, but assembling them in that order really doesn’t work for me.)

Don’t Think About a White Bear

You might remember Dan Gilbert as the author of Stumbling on Happiness or as the presenter of one of the best-ever TED Talks back in 2004 (posted online in 2006).

I’ve just found a 15 minute talk he gave at Pop!Tech in 2007 on global climate change and why our brains don’t seem to care much about it.

It takes you just milliseconds to duck when somebody throws a baseball at your head because your brain is an exquisitely engineered “get out of the way” machine, and it’s constantly scanning the environment for things out of whose way it should right now get.

Quite apart from the interesting content, that particular sentence was wonderfully phrased.

Just In Cases

Found in an old application (circa 2002):

/* just in case.*/
return false;

In case of what?  Are we not trusting the exit statement anymore?

This reminds me of a West Wing scene from the episode Swiss Diplomacy:

Bartlet: This meeting doesn’t go in the Sit Room anymore, okay? I don’t know why the hell it’s here. This isn’t a military operation.

Leo: It’s a secure room.

Bartlet: My office is a secure room, too, isn’t it? Please, somebody tell me it is, or I gotta go pack some stuff. You see my point?

If exit doesn’t work, I gotta go pack some stuff.

Found in a Hallway (Part 1)

As I would in any public space, I often notice strange items strewn about the common areas of my building.  Our maintenance and custodial staff is diligent about picking up students’ messes, but they can’t clean the entire building instantaneously, so messes often last long enough to me to find them.

Restaurant delivery menus appear beside the elevators many mornings, lost socks are dropped in the hallway from time to time, and I’ve even seen a couple pieces of furniture left conspicuously in front of someone’s apartment for a couple days before anyone realized their owners had no intention of removing them on their own.

Commonly, I’ll find a beer can in the elevator on Saturday morning on my way to get coffee.  This completely baffles me.  I am not surprised that college students drink beer on Friday nights, nor that they dispose of beer cans improperly, but rather over how much beer a person can really consume in the time it takes a modern elevator to climb 20 stories.

It reminds me of a Jerry Seinfeld joke from his special I’m Telling You for the Last Time, where he describes airplane bathrooms:

[They have a] tiny slot for used razor blades. That’s always there. Who is shaving on the plane? And shaving so much, they’re using up razor blades?  What have you got? The Wolfman flying here?

To date, however, I was most taken aback by discovering a pancake in the middle of the hallway on my way to work one morning — uncooked.  Someone had clearly ladled pancake batter onto the hallway carpet and then continued the rest of their evening as planned.

I know you’re thinking I could be naïvely failing to consider other explanations for that particular mess.  Believe me, “pancake batter” wasn’t my first thought either as I walked (necessarily) toward the mystery hallway mess, but pancake batter it was, without a doubt.

I should implement a new rule here.  You can get as drunk as you want in my hallway, but with the understanding that I will automatically send pictures of everything you do to your boss, mother, girlfriend, dean, and .  If you believe there’s any possibility they might end up getting pictures of you ladling a pancake onto the hallway carpet, you should impose some limits on your alcohol consumption.

Occam’s Cookie

I’ve made Peanut Blossoms every Christmas for the past few years, forming something of a minor tradition. I leave some for my neighbors, bring some to work, and eat more than a few myself.

I started in 2006, using a recipe I got online, and they didn’t come out well at all.  Overly crunchy, and with the Hershey’s Kisses falling out, they were nothing like the peanut blossoms I remember from years gone by.

Each time I’ve made a batch (at Christmas and on other occasions) I’ve tried a new recipe, hoping to improve the outcome.  They were all different, but none were very good.  One called for too many dry ingredients and too little peanut butter; another favored shortening to peanut butter by a surprising ratio; a third had an unhealthy affinity for brown sugar.

Since I already have all the basic components of cookies at home (baking soda, sugar, et cetera), I stopped at the store to get only the special ingredient: Hershey’s Kisses.  (Don’t even pretend that a dollop of chocolate frosting is remotely acceptable.)  There in the store, I saw a convenient “Take One!” display with Hershey’s own recipe. I took one.  I made it.  It was by far the best batch ever.

This reminds me of a riddle from the movie Roxanne:

Question: What can you sit on, sleep on, and brush your teeth with?

Answer: A chair, a bed, and a toothbrush.

Sometimes the answer is so obvious, you don’t even realize it.

I’ve already saved that recipe card for next year.

But What’s LESS Than Zero?

The first two sentences in this morning’s Boston Globe read:

The Federal Reserve cut its key rate yesterday to a range between zero and 0.25 percent, the lowest figure ever.  The Fed acknowledged that it has virtually exhausted its rate-cutting arsenal….

Really?  We think there’s no more room for cuts when the rate is down to zero?

God Help Us; We’re in the Hands of Engineers

Overheard on the D line yesterday evening:

It would be like Jurassic Park. I’d be suspended in Jell-o forever.

Don’t judge too quickly. With all the plot holes in that movie, we might well have overlooked eternal Jell-o suspension in there somewhere.

(I like best a scene when the power is all out so Hammond is eating all the ice cream so it won’t melt… while electric fans turn overhead.)

400 Is the New 300

I’ll take a moment now to congratulate myself on creating this, my 300th blog post. Its ID happens to be 400, which tells us that I discard fully one in four articles I begin to write.  I either have very high standards, or I have a lot of bad ideas.

By the way, if anybody I knew five years ago asks, I still don’t see the point of a blog.

Beep Boop Beep Beep Bop Beep-Beep

Sine-Wave Speech is created by taking regular speech and essentially reducing it down to sine waves, absent all the complexities that make normal speech understandable.

Listen to a sample and you’ll hear nothing but whistles and beeps.

On the other hand, listen to the original sound (ordinary speech) and then listen to exactly the same sample again.

Then panic.

The theory is that the brain’s very perception of the sound is colored by its past experiences of listening to similar sounds.  You perceive, at a low level, that you’re hearing speech, and therefore you can decipher it.  I suppose it’s not unlike how we adjust to listening to people with heavily accented speech, but it’s so much more extreme that it’s scary.

Listen to four more samples on that page, and not only will you get the same effect or all four, but you’ll even get better at deciphering the sine-wave version the first time around.

(via Kottke)

Best Phone Call Ever

The phone rings at 11:12.  I answer.

Me: Hello.

Sophie: I’m going to see Santa.

Me:  You’re going to see Santa again?

Sophie: Yeah!  I’m going to see Santa and get presents!

Me:  Ooooh, fun!  Did you see Santa at the parade yesterday?

Sophie: Yeah! Okay, bye!

The call disconnects.

0 minutes, 35 seconds elapsed