Category Archives: Curiosities

An Extremely Fine Line, Indeed

A friend from high school sometimes referred to certain “odd” classmates as “easily amused.” It seemed appropriate at the time.

On the other hand, especially as I’ve gotten into my later decades, I’ve developed a major appreciation for the ability to maintain a childlike sense of wonder, particularly in regards to some of the simple things in life.

Today I had an experience that I initially thought was full of childlike sense of wonder, but my brain shouted at me that I was just easily amused, and it occurred to me that the difference between the two states might be an extremely fine line, indeed.

The subject in question was water temperature. Specifically, water temperature gradients in an insulated sports bottle.

Here’s a quick, crappy picture of said insulated sports bottle:

(This is my Angels bottle – don’t worry, OF COURSE I have a Chiefs bottle! But this is the one that amused/amazed me today.)

So, fill it with ice and water (or any other fluid) and it will keep it nice and cold for hours. Ditto for hot chocolate or soup, they’ll stay hot for hours. Thermos bottles have been around since I was a kid, had one in my lunch box in first grade way back before most of you were born. It works as expected and designed.

Let it sit for a day or two and forget that you put ice and cold water in it and you’ll have 18 ounces of room temperature water. As expected.

But somewhere in the middle there…

I’ve noticed a number of times that there’s a middle ground where if one picks it up without undue jostling, pops the top, turns it over and chugs it, you can very distinctly taste the room temperature water first, then getting several degrees colder, and then by the end getting much colder water.

On the one hand, that’s what I would expect as well in a “big picture” sense. Fundamental fluid dynamics says hot fluids or gasses will rise, cold ones sink. So it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the top water in the bottle, which I drink first when I turn it over, is warmer, and the bottom water, which gets drunk last, is cooler.

What DOES surprise me is that the temperature difference is so distinctly noticeable. It’s not a subtle difference. Secondly, I’m surprised that the water stays differentiated by temperature even as the bottle is picked up, opened, and upended. I would think that there would be enough disturbance there to mix the water and destroy the effect.

Yet the effect is there – I notice it all the time.

So – childlike curiosity and wonder at the simple facts of our bizarre existence on this dust mote in the infinite cosmos? Or, “You’re easily amused!”


Filed under Curiosities, Deep Thoughts, Photography

Reality’s A Bitch

…some days more than others.

Why is it that on the day when you wake up late, are supposed to be in a few minutes early, have a blinding headache, get blocked through two cycles of the stoplight by the fire trucks being parked and blocking traffic on Fallbrook, then get stuck behind some clown who can’t figure out what a freakin’ green left turn arrow means

(cleansing breath – in through the nose – hold it – …three, four, five – let it out slowly through your mouth – all the way out – squeeze it out – now hold it – …three, four, five)

Why is it that on that morning, reality decides to screw with your brain?

Did anyone else know that Lincoln, one of the premier luxury car models in the United States, the dudes with Matthew McConahey being emo in a tuxedo to pitch their cool and trendy and ever-so-desirable cars, yes that Lincoln — sells a pickup truck?

I spent all day thinking that either I was hallucinating badly (and not one of the good kind of hallucinations) or it had to be some sort of joke, a custom job done by someone with a bizarre sense of humor and more money than God.


What’s next? It’s madness, I tell you!


Filed under Curiosities, Los Angeles

No Context For You – February 4th

Madness approaches…


The prey is at the bottom…

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What’s up with the marketing department for the National Council of Orange Growers? (An imaginary organization so far as I know, but there’s got to be something along those lines…)

It occurs to me that the apple guys have been working overtime. Go to the grocery store and you have:

  • Granny Smith
  • Pacific Rose
  • Envy
  • Jazz
  • Cripps Pink
  • Honeycrisp
  • Gala
  • Golden Delicious
  • Red Delicious
  • Fuji
  • Opal

and more that aren’t in season right now. There are dozens of varieties of apples!

Even the pear guys have some variety – Bartlet pears, red pears, Bosc pears, and Anjou pears just in the store today. And that’s just at the neighborhood Ralph’s. If you go to a Trader Joe’s they’ve go all sorts of weird pears.


Jumbo – Large – Medium.

They aren’t even different types at all, they’re just split by how big they are!

C’mon, NCOG marketers, get your act together!

In other news, my brain isn’t always quite right at the grocery store…


Filed under Curiosities, Paul

Vivid Dreams & Nightly Torture

The nocturnal leg cramps are back. With a vengeance.

But this time there’s a twist. Perhaps related, perhaps not. Perhaps coincidental.

The dreams this week have been vivid, detailed, and unique. None of this “standing in front of a crowd naked” or “can’t find my classroom for the big final exam” stuff for me. Not even the more common (for me) recurring dreams.


They’re almost full blown movies, albeit with the somewhat choppy plot lines. More like scenes from a full blown movie with some of the scenes in between missing. But there’s a story in there.

A giant starship, waking from cold sleep in a pod, stuffing the pod with dummies filled with explosives in case we’re caught by those chasing us. Getting to a huge, shiny, skyscraper-like city orbiting a gas giant. We’re the second colony ship here to follow them and see what they’ve built in the decades they’ve been there before us. But they’re horrified to find that we didn’t bring more advanced weapons, something to deal with the ships that are following us…

A scene out of some technothriller, a European city, some sort of plot or heist going on. Rooms full of computers and giant screens a la “War Games.” Not a need to shut down the computer but instead to convince them to keep it going. I’m with an agent of some kind, a young Asian woman dressed in all black, but they’re separating us, taking us away and I have to stay with her…

Under water, floating, wearing some sort of scuba gear. There’s no bottom, no coral reefs, no shipwrecks, no anything. A bit of light from above but it must be moonlight since it’s so dim. Swimming past me are rows upon rows of various fish, like I’m in the middle of a marine 405 Freeway. There’s no danger, no sharks or anything like that, but I can’t decide whether to swim along with one group or the other. Somehow it’s critical that I make the correct choice…

So here’s the question – if the fascinating and somewhat entertaining dreams are tied somehow to the leg cramps and getting rid of the leg cramps will also get rid of the vivid nocturnal adventures in my head, do I take “the pill” and kill them both? Or are the leg cramps a small enough price to pay for the show?

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Walking Through The Twilight Zone

This last week or so I’ve been making sure I get my daily allocation of steps (my fitness smart watch demands my obedience) by going out for a late evening stroll. I’m usually out at 21:00 or even 22:00, walking at least a mile and a half to three miles.

Most nights I’l piss off the occasional dog who objects to my existence on the other side of their wall, and I’ll spot a clown or two running through a stop sign at 50 mph. As long as I’m not actually in the crosswalk at the time, the walk is (hopefully) calming.

Last night it was spooky quiet. I don’t think I saw more than one or two cars all night. After a while it became quite noticeable that I hadn’t heard a single dog barking. I didn’t hear any music playing or noise from any televisions coming from any houses, despite the fact that it was a comfortable night and I would have thought that many folks would have their windows open. No helicopters, no jets heading into Runway 08 at Burbank.


Tonight flipped to the exact opposite. And it was all odd, at least a little bit off in small, subtle ways.

That car parked next to the high school? Only when I was passing it did I realize that it was running and occupied by a couple. No brake lights, no motion, just a sudden realization that there were shapes in there and they were talking loudly. More like an argument than making out, but not exactly threatening or dangerous. I did give a couple of thoughts as I went by as to what I might do if the woman inside saw me and took the opportunity to jump out and shout for help.


Around the corner, I can hear an unfamiliar sound. Sort of like a cricket but more metallic or mechanical. It’s soft but somewhere straight ahead of me. Within ten seconds or so I hear the location switch to a location out in the middle of the street about 45° out, then to a spot that sounded like it was about five feet away out in the street, then to a spot behind, at which point it became a more steady drone and quickly dopplered away. The street is well lit there with a high school on one side and a shopping center parking lot on the other, yet I saw nothing passing me by or anywhere near me.

Very odd.

Around the corner, the grocery store had closed at 21:00, about fifteen minutes earlier. There was suddenly an alarm bell going off and I saw three or four people get out of a very high-end SUV and run over to the locked doors. The alarm stopped and they went back to their car and just stood around, waiting for something. I’m going with the closing shift doing a poor job of setting the burglar alarm, correcting the error, and then wasting their time doing something or the other.


As I go around the next corner I can see a kid twenty or thirty feet in front of me. A Mini pulls up and there’s some kind of exchange between the several occupants of the car and the teenager on the sidewalk. He gets in but doesn’t seem enthusiastic about it. They roar off – and run through the red light ahead of them. (At least that part was “normal.”) Big brother rounding up the kid who broke curfew? Gang members? Something completely innocent?


Now that it’s dead quiet again, coming through the red light from the other direction I can hear music, getting louder. Over the little rise appears a HUGE guy on a bicycle with a boom box blaring away. He reminded me of some of the passing characters in “Blade Runner.”


Approaching my home block after about a mile and a half, I can see a large SUV pull over at the corner ahead, stop, and the hazard warning lights turn on. I see someone get out and stand in the middle of the street nearby. As I approach I can hear someone talking quite loudly. It’s the lady standing in the middle of the intersection, talking on her phone. I don’t understand what she’s saying or even recognize the language. She’s quite excited and agitated. Is she having mechanical trouble? Did she run out of gas? As I cross the street I see that she’s tall, really tall, like basketball center on the US Olympic team tall, at least 6’6″ or more. She’s dressed in what looks like some kind of African dashiki and is wearing a turban or headdress of some sort. She never looks at me, just keeps shouting into her phone. As I get across the street to where her car is parked, I see that it’s running, the interior lights on with the driver’s door open. What made her stop her car so fast and jump out? Why is she shouting and who is she shouting at on her phone?

Very, very odd.

As I turn the final corner toward home I half expect to see Rod Serling standing there smoking a cigarette. He wasn’t there, of course. That whole “been dead for a long time” thing and all. But given the rest of the evening, it might not have been as unlikely as it would have been in broad daylight.

Walking through the Twilight Zone is mind bending.



Filed under Curiosities, Paul

Butter Bucket Brigade

I don’t just write my own blog here, I also read other blogs that interest me. One of my favorites is Musings From A Tangled Mind by Wendy Kowal. The subject matter is sometimes serious, sometimes lighthearted, and occasionally hilarious.

Yesterday there was a post there which discussed her mother’s use of “butter buckets” (my term) for storage of things other than the butter they originally contained. It rang true to me, since my family was also one where everything got re-used and re-purposed as possible. It also was hilarious because that apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.

My father used coffee cans, butter buckets, baby food jars, and so on for storing all kinds of things in his workshop. (With eight kids, there were a LOT of baby food jars!) I remember him finding a design in Popular Mechanics or some similar magazine for a rotating rack that used baby food jars to store miscellaneous small nuts and bolts. He built it, with end pieces about the size of a bicycle wheel, and the horizontal spokes between them about two feet long. All of the spokes could swivel to stay upright, like the cars on a Ferris wheel do. Each spoke was a piece of wood about two inches wide and a half-inch thick, with about fifteen baby food jar lids nailed to the underside. The baby food jars containing the small parts would be pushed up and screwed into position, then the whole thing would rotate to bring different racks of jars into use. Sort of like a cross between a Ferris wheel and a vertically-oriented lazy Susan.

At least none of those baby food jars held anything that might be confused with baby food.

When I read Wendy’s article yesterday I immediately thought of how I do the same thing as her mother, but I do it more like my father did. I wanted to post a picture in my comment on her article, but I couldn’t. so I’ll put it here!

FullSizeRender (5)

On the bathroom counter next to my sink are, from left to right: a red Solo cup (which is actually orange), a slot machine change cup from Paris Las Vegas (from our honeymoon fifteen years ago), two butter buckets exactly like those in the picture that Wendy used yesterday, and an orange Halloween candy collection bucket that was a Kids’ Meal giveaway at least fifteen years ago.

In those various containers are pens, notes, scissors, old toothbrushes (they’re great for cleaning things), car keys, small tools, parts for bathroom repairs, a flashlight, old MP3 players, loose change, old headphones, key chains, batteries… You get the picture.

My favorite item, no doubt because it’s the weirdest and most out of place, is the New Year’s Eve party horn sticking out of the Paris Las Vegas cup. You never can tell when you might need something in the bathroom to go phweeEEEEEETTTTTTTT to celebrate something or spook the dog.

Wait, that didn’t come out right…

(NOW do you see why Ronnie’s earned the title of “The Long-Suffering Wife”?)


Filed under Castle Willett, Curiosities, Family, Paul

Forty Answers

  1. Paper
  2. Mary Ann
  3. Briefs
  4. Shower
  5. Xbox
  6. Facebook
  7. Science
  8. Summer
  9. Tom
  10. N’Sync
  11. Pen
  12. Digital
  13. DVR
  14. Dark
  15. Football
  16. Pizza Hut
  17. Dog
  18. Deaf
  19. E-mail
  20. NEITHER!
  21. Half full
  22. Gym
  23. Stick
  24. Texting
  25. Simple
  26. Silence
  27. Make
  28. Star
  29. CD’s
  30. South
  31. PM
  32. Book
  33. Newspaper
  34. Beginning
  35. Glasses
  36. Brunette
  37. Hot
  38. On
  39. Geek
  40. Country

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I ran across this the other day, listed as a “list of reasons for admissions to an asylum in the 1800s.” It may or may not be that – not clear why an 1800s asylum would have a 2010s phone number and website listed. (Ah, it’s a real place in West Virginia, supposedly haunted, now a tourist attraction of sorts.) So probably not quite some internet meme from last year.

Reading through the list, it’s quite a varied selection of things to get locked up for.


On review, I find that I could be committed for at least twenty-six reasons on the list, and there are those out there who would probably throw in at least a couple more.

I’ll leave it as an exercise to the student to figure out which twenty-six.

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Thingamabobs – May 22nd

I’ve always found that there are odd little thingamabobs out there in the world. Things that are just a bit “off.” I suspect that most folks would just shrug and move on when encountering these thingamabobs, but I’ve always found them to be worth a second look and further examination.

I like to think my attitude is a result of my retention of a child-like sense of wonder and awe at the amazing universe around us. Others just think that I’m “easily amused.” (They very well might be correct.)

Today’s example is a soda can that spontaneously became an “outie” instead of an “innie.”






I know that it happened spontaneously because I was holding the carton it was in when it happened. It was one of those twelve-packs that’s intended to fit into your fridge and dispense one can at a time. I had just gotten home from the grocery store, set the case down on the floor, and felt the case shudder and thump, with a quite audible metallic sound.

I assumed that one of the cans had ruptured and I was going to need to clean up lemonade from all over the kitchen. I hadn’t set the sodas down very hard or on anything sharp, but something had triggered some sort of reaction.

Opening up the case, expecting to find sticky soda spraying everywhere, instead I found all twelve cans to be quite intact and clean. Eleven were perfectly normal, with both ends in the usual concave configuration. This one can had both ends pushed out to be convex.

From an engineering and science background, it made sense that this could have happened. The reason the ends are concave to begin with is because that  shape is very structurally sound to resist and contain the internal pressure from the soda’s gas. This is particularly true on this kind of can which is formed from a single piece of aluminum.

But having the ends concave (“innie”) is only one solution to the structural strength equation. An equally valid solution is to have the two ends convex (“outie”). Think about other large tanks used for containing volumes of liquid or gas under pressure. The Space Shuttle’s external tank. The tanks at the gas station or in your back yard that contain propane. The trucks that haul cold, liquid gases such as nitrogen or oxygen. They’re all shaped like long, narrow tubes with convex ends.

The fact that the huge, industrial strength containers use the convex ends makes me think that it might be because that configuration is stronger than the convex design. I might have to dig out and dust off some math textbooks to test that. (Ed. note: I won’t, don’t worry – I said might.) But the convex shape doesn’t lend itself to containers that can need to stand up on the ground or be stacked.

Think of fire extinguishers, or those big steel containers that contain helium for blowing up party balloons. They’re all flat on the bottom to make them easy stand up, but inside they’re rounded. (Convex or concave? Sounds like a question for “How It’s Made.”)

For soda cans, it’s a huge benefit if they can be stacked and stand up on their own. They also only have to withstand fairly low pressures. The solution there is to make both ends concave. Which is why they’re that way…

…until that rare moment when something snaps on one can and it flips from one stable configuration to one that might be slightly more stable from a pure standpoint, even if it does make it impossible to stand the can on its end.

It’s still amazing to me that it can do that without splitting open the aluminum – but there’s your proof.

(Kevin MacNamara, a high school friend, was the first to point out that I am “easily amused.” See, I still haven’t proven him wrong!)

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