My husband and I ran a small computer repair business out of our home. As we offered 24-hour emergency service for businesses in our area, we had a phone directly by our bed.
We set up a new system to do daily and weekly backups for a hotel in the area, timed to happen at 2:00 am when things should have been very slow. We made sure the daily backups were happening properly, told them we’d be back in a week to double-check that the weekly backups were backing up correctly too, and asked them to contact us in the meantime if anything weird happened or if they got any error messages or anything.
Client: Great! Thank you.
That night, 2:30 am or so, we get a call from him.
Client: Hi! Just wanted to let you know that the daily backup happened just fine!
Me: Um, that’s good. But it looks like there might have been a slight communication error. We’ve already confirmed that the daily backups are happening properly, so you don’t need to let us know when they do. Just let us know if you see any error messages about them, or if you have any reason to think something isn’t working properly, okay?
Client: Oh, okay, sure!
The next night at 2:30 am, the phone rings again:
Client: Hi! Just wanted to let you know that the backups are still working just fine!
Me: Great. Thanks. Listen, please don’t call us to let us know it IS working; that just wastes your time. We know it’s working; just let us know IF something goes wrong, okay? Otherwise you don’t need to call us, and we’ll see you on Friday.
Client: Oh, sorry, okay, no problem!
Next bloody night, the phone rings again, and the Caller ID shows it’s the client again.
Me: Are you serious?
My husband said I should just let it go to answering machine.
Client: (on answering machine) Daily backups are still working great! Just wanted to let you know.
Great. Good. But the phone rings AGAIN, five minutes later. I answered it.
Client: Hi! Glad I got you! I left a message when no one answered but I wanted to make sure that you got it. The backups are still working fine. Everything’s good.
Me: Okay. Great. Listen, you DO NOT NEED TO CALL US to tell us that everything is working okay. It’s SUPPOSED to be working okay. We don’t need confirmation each night that everything is working the way it’s supposed to, okay? I know you’re trying to help, but the phone is right by our bed, it’s the middle of the night, and you’re waking us up each night for something that is just the normal operation, not an emergency. Please. If there is a problem, absolutely call us; but if everything is working okay, then please don’t call and tell us that. Okay?
Client: Oh, sorry! I didn’t realize. Sorry for waking you up each night! Don’t worry, I won’t call again. Unless something goes wrong. Heh.
Me: Great, thanks. Goodnight.
And yet, the next bloody night, the phone rings. I answered it, and got a pre-recorded message.
He sent us a fax. I accepted it, and our printer spit out a piece of paper.
Sure enough, the fax read “Daily backups worked fine.”
Guidelines for wearers of a Smokey Bear costume, from the U.S. Forest Service’s Smokey Bear FAQ:
- The person wearing the costume must exhibit appropriate animation to be effective. Express sincerity and interest in the appearance by moving paws, head, and legs.
- There shall be at least one uniformed escort to accompany the Bear. The escort shall guide the Bear at the elbow.
- After donning the costume, the escort shall inspect the suit. Check for the following:
- A private dressing room is necessary for putting on and taking off the costume.
- The costumed bear should not force itself on anyone. Do not walk rapidly toward small children.
- A round-point shovel is part of the Smokey Bear image. It shall be used for appearances, when appropriate.
- The costume becomes hot to the wearer after a very short period. Success has been noted with the use of compartmentalized “ice vests” and the addition of a battery-operated fan in the hat. Several cooling options are available from the costume manufacturers. Limit appearances to 15-20 minute segments to minimize personal discomfort.
- After each appearance, check the costume for needed repairs or cleaning. Note this on the outside of the storage box for immediate follow-up by the owner/manager of the costume.
Is the drawstring tucked in?
Is the zipper out of sight?
Are the buttons fastened?
Is the belt firmly fastened to the pants?
Are the pant cuffs neat?
Is the hat crown up?
Is the head straight on the shoulders?
Is the fur brushed generously?
Costumed users must not speak during appearances, must never appear in less than full costume, and must appear dignified and friendly. “Do not use alcohol or illicit drugs prior to and during the Smokey Bear appearance. This condition applies to uniformed escorts as well.”
The signs in Melbourne’s Eureka Tower Carpark are not signs — the words are painted anamorphically on the floor and walls of the garage. Each direction becomes visible from the point where you’d naturally look for it.
I just sent a client his business cards.
Client: I don’t like them. They’re not what I was expecting.
Me: That’s not good, what were you expecting?
Client: When you sent me the artwork, i was like “F*ck, that’s SIIIIICK,” but the business cards don’t make me say that.
Me: But it’s the same artwork as what was sent to you.
Client: On my phone, it was glowing, especially when it was dark, you could see the artwork better.
Me: Are you aware that your phone has a light behind the screen?
Client: How do I get that for my business cards?
Me: Are you prepared to pay $800 per card?
When chemists at the University of California at Berkeley discovered elements 97 and 98, they named them berkelium and californium. The New Yorker suggested that the school showed “a surprising lack of public-relations foresight”: “Now it has lost forever the chance of immortalizing itself in the atomic tables with some such sequence as universitium (97), ofium (98), californium (99), berkelium (100).”
The discoverers sent back a reply: “By using these names first, we have forestalled the appalling possibility that after naming 97 and 98 ‘universitium’ and ‘ofium’, some New Yorker might follow with the discovery of 99 and 100 and apply the names ‘newium’ and ‘yorkium’.”
The magazine answered, “We are already at work in our office laboratories on ‘newium’ and ‘yorkium’. So far we just have the names.”
Typographer John Langdon designed this ambigram for the Department of English & Philosophy at his institution, Drexel University.
“This illusion was a particularly difficult challenge,” he told Brad Honeycutt for The Art of Deception (2014). “My attempts to create more ‘conventional’ (rotational, mirror-image, etc.) ambigrams for these two words were unsuccessful. But my personal investments in both philosophy and language seem to inspire me to some of my best work. This ‘perception shift’ ambigram was very difficult to develop, but my stubborn persistence finally paid off. The two words ‘philosophy’ and ‘English’ can be difficult to discern, but with a little patience and a voluntary perception shift, finding them is particularly satisfying.”
There’s much more at Langdon’s site.
In 1993, cognitive neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene asked respondents to classify a number as larger or smaller than 65, using response keys held in their hands. Interestingly, the subjects who held the “smaller” key in their left hand and the “larger” key in their right responded more quickly and with fewer errors than those in the opposite group. This suggests that we carry around a mental number line in our heads, implicitly associating left with “small” and right with “large”; the subjects in the slower group may have been fighting against this prejudice. Dehaene calls this the SNARC effect, for “spatial-numerical association of response codes.”
The effect was borne out in later studies. When subjects were asked to cross their arms, the group whose “smaller” button lay to their left were still faster than their counterparts. And the effect still obtains regardless of the range of numbers used, and even in tasks where the size of the number is irrelevant: In another experiment subjects were asked to report whether a given number was odd or even; here again, responses to numbers in the upper half of the test range were quicker when the appropriate response key was on the right, and likewise for small numbers on the left.
Interestingly, Iranian students living in France who had initially learned to read from right to left showed a reverse SNARC effect (associating small numbers with the right and large numbers with the left) if they’d recently immigrated, but those who had lived in France for some time showed the same SNARC effect as native French students.
“Very probably, then, this number-space association is learned, not innate,” writes M. Giaquinto in Visual Thinking in Mathematics. “But there may very well be an innate propensity in operation here. A left-right association has been found for familiar ordered sets of non-numerical items, namely, months and letters. This suggests that we have a tendency to form a linear spatial representation of any set of things whose customary presentation is well ordered (in the mathematical sense).”
(S. Dehaene, S. Bossini, and P. Giraux, “The Mental Representation of Parity and Numerical Magnitude,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 122, 371-396. See Number Forms.)
After the Bolshevik Revolution, architect Vladimir Tatlin proposed this enormous monument to house Communist headquarters in Petrograd. Two large helixes would spiral 400 meters into the air, surpassing the Eiffel Tower as the world’s foremost symbol of modernity. The helixes would point to Polaris, so that the star and the tower would remain motionless relative to each other. Suspended from the framework would be three office buildings of glass and steel, each moving in harmony with the cosmos: A is a cylindrical auditorium that rotates once a year, B is a cone-shaped office structure that rotates once a month, C is a cubical information center that rotates once a day, and on top is an open-air screen on which messages could be projected. (During overcast weather they planned to project the news onto clouds.)
In the end it was never built — even if Russia could have produced the steel, it’s not clear that it would have stood up.
Client: Make that a lighter black.Me: Okay. So dark grey for the background.Client: No! I absolutely...
Client: Make that a lighter black.
Me: Okay. So dark grey for the background.
Client: No! I absolutely don’t want any shade of grey on my website. I just want a lighter black.
Me: …Okay. Lighter black for the background it is. Now, did you want the same shade of white, or did you want that to be darker?
Client: Don’t be ridiculous.
I guess is the best we got?
This looks exhausting — flirting signals, from Daniel R. Shafer’s Secrets of Life Unveiled, 1877:
Drawing it across the lips: Desiring an acquaintance
Drawing it across the cheek: I love you
Drawing it across the forehead: Look, we are watched
Drawing it through the hands: I hate you
Dropping it: We will be friends
Folding it: I wish to speak with you
Letting it rest on the right cheek: Yes
Letting it rest on the left cheek: No
Letting it remain on the eyes: You are so cruel
Opposite corners in both hands: Do wait for me
Over the shoulder: Follow me
Placing it over the right ear: How you have changed
Putting it in the pocket: No more love at present
Taking it by the centre: You are most too willing
Twisting it in the left hand: I wish to be rid of you
Twisting it in the right hand: I love another
Winding it around the forefinger: I am engaged
Winding it around the third finger: I am married
Biting the tips: I wish to be rid of you very soon
Clenching them, rolled up in right hand: No
Drawing half way on left hand: Indifference
Dropping both of them: I love you
Dropping one of them: Yes
Folding up carefully: Get rid of your company
Holding the tips downward: I wish to be acquainted
Holding them loose in the right hand: Be contented
Holding them loose in the left hand: I am satisfied
Left hand with the naked thumb exposed: Do you love me?
Putting them away: I am vexed
Right hand with the naked thumb exposed: Kiss me
Smoothing them out gently: I am displeased
Striking them over the shoulder: Follow me
Tapping the chin: I love another
Tossing them up gently: I am engaged
Turning them inside out: I hate you
Twisting them around the fingers: Be careful, we are watched
Using them as a fan: Introduce me to your company
Carrying in right hand: You are too willing
Carrying in right hand in front of face: Follow me
Carrying in left hand: Desirous of an acquaintance
Closing it: I wish to speak with you
Drawing across the forehead: We are watched
Drawing across the cheek: I love you
Drawing across the eyes: I am sorry
Drawing through the hand: I hate you
Dropping: We will be friends
Fanning fast: I am engaged
Fanning slow: I am married
Letting it rest on right cheek: Yes
Letting it rest on left cheek: No
Open and shut: You are cruel
Open wide: Wait for me
Shut: I have changed
Placing it on the right ear: You have changed
Twirling in left hand: I love another
With handle to lips: Kiss me
Carrying it elevated in left hand: Desiring acquaintance
Carrying it elevated in right hand: You are too willing
Carrying it closed in left hand: Meet on the first crossing
Carrying it closed in right hand by the side: Follow me
Carrying it over the right shoulder: You can speak to me
Carrying it over the left shoulder: You are too cruel
Closing up: I wish to speak to you
Dropping it: I love you
End of tips to lips: Do you love me?
Folding it up: Get rid of your company
Letting it rest on the right cheek: Yes
Letting it rest on the left cheek: No
Striking it on the hand: I am very displeased
Swinging it to and fro by the handle on left side: I am engaged
Swinging it to and fro by the handle on the right side: I am married
Tapping the chin gently: I am in love with another
Twirling it around: Be careful; we are watched
Using it as a fan: Introduce me to your company
With handle to lips: Kiss me
(From Elizabeth Aldrich, From the Ballroom to Hell: Grace and Folly in Nineteenth-Century Dance, 1991.)
I’m kind of in love with this.