Category Archives: Muddled Musings

A Life in the Day

 

By 11:35 a.m. PDT today, the ballyhoo had turned to bellyaching.

“I’m glad we all took the day off,” one miffed TV reporter snarked Monday from Boise, Idaho. “Obviously, I’m being sarcastic.”

Leave it to local TV news to explain the joke — and miss the point. We have evolved from beholding a total solar eclipse was The End of Days to a disappointing End of Lunch phenomenon. One CNN report actually quoted Twitter (has Trump somehow made that a legitimate source) who cracked that the eclipse was “Like Y2K, without the drama.”

A nice quip, but like the newscaster, it fails grasp the expansive truth of time, and our role in it. Today’s eclipse did happen, and it was rare.

Tomorrow it will be forgotten. But today, let the occasion be a reminder of little miracles, ones that add up to less than we expect in a year, but more than we could dream in a decade.

  • Depending on the geometry of the Sun, Moon, and Earth, there can be between 2 and 5 solar eclipses each year.
  • Totality occurs when the Moon completely obscures Sun so only the solar corona is showing.
  • A total solar eclipse can happen once every 1-2 years. This makes them very rare events.s.
  • The longest a total solar eclipse can last is 7.5 minutes.
  • The width of the path of totality is usually about 160 km across and can sweep across an area of Earth’s surface about 10,000 miles long.
  • Almost identical eclipses occur after 18 years and 11 days. This period of 223 synodic months is called a saros.
  • During a total solar eclipse, conditions in the path of totality can change quickly. Air temperatures drop and the immediate area becomes dark.
  • If any planets are in the sky at the time of a total solar eclipse, they can be seen as points of light.
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The Cold Hard Factslaps

 

Before the nuclear winter, a few Factslaps, los perras:

 

  • Iceland imports ice cubes.
  • The Netherlands closed eight prisoners in 2013 for lack of criminals.
  • France paid the highest taxes in Europe in 2016, with a real tax rate of 57.53%.
  • Marie Antoinette’s last words were “Pardon me, sir, I meant not to do it,” an apology to her executioner for stepping on his toes.
  • Ancient Egyptians had a 70% accurate method for detecting pregnancy: a woman would pee on some seeds. If they sprouted, she was pregnant.
  • The last car to have a cassette deck come standard was the Lexus SC430 in 2010.
  • Mice sigh up to 40 times an hour.
  • It is illegal in Saudi Arabia to name a child Sandy, Elaine or Linda.
  • A group of ladybirds is called a loveliness. 
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My Fidget Spinner Problem

 

I tend to gravitate toward crap.

Always have. When I was a boy, I  wanted a Pet Rock, an absurdity I would never request as a Christmas gift, lest my father’s ridicule (and let’s face it, mom would have busted balls, too). So I waited and bought one when I was 40.

Then there is the Useless Box, an item I saw featured on the TV show Fargo. As its name implies, it’s not useful. For anything. It does have a single switch. When you push it, the box opens and turns the switch off. It’s not even useful as a container, as the mechanism to turn itself off takes up most of the box.

I love it.

So I guess it should come as no surprise, what happened recently on Amazon. I’ve always known the company is frighteningly aware of what I do and what my dog likes to eat. Still, it’s a little creepy when I go to a website and there is the exact item I had glanced at a minute earlier on another site.

And Alexa had done it again; looked over my shoulder, peeked in my room, glanced at my email.

She knew I was in the mood for crap. So she placed something atop the Amazon app I visit with troubling frequency. There was a poorly-described item, apparently used for kids with ADD and adults who refused to admit they had it (I likely fit squarely there). Clearly made overseas, the title read:

“heytech Penny Fidget Spinners Triple Sides Hand Spinner Fidget Toys Druable Zn-Alloy Up to 5 Minutes One Cent Limited Edition(Brass)”

The description wasn’t much help:

“Fidget spinner: 3 minutes average spins great for fidgety hands, add & adhd sufferers helps relieve stress.
Easy to carry:small, simple, discrete and fun, also effective for focus and deep thought with using this hand spinner.”

I still had no idea what it was. But it was $2.08, with 50-cent shipping. And there were more than 300 reviews. I thought, “Any gadget that’s made of metal, costs less than $3 and has the courage to describe itself as ‘discrete’ has got to be a bargain. How can I afford not to buy it??” So I did. And forgot about it.

More than a month later, it arrived from China. I now own a dozen of the gadgets.

Turns out, the fidget spinner is something of a modern miracle. Its popularity in the U.S. has made it more of a public eyesore than wonder. But make no mistake: The fidget spinner is the most ingenious toy since the top.

In fact, that’s the DNA of its genius: It improves on the top, one of humanity’s staple childhood distractions. Rotating on near friction-less ball bearings, a fidget spinner lengthens a top’s traditional rotation more than twenty-fold. Think of a Slinky that can walk up the stairs.

I know this is all hyperbole, bullshit and a marketer’s wet dream. I also know it confirms P.T. Barnum’s every-minute theorem. It also probably confirms I have “fidgety hands,” if not worse.

But there is something to be said for all of the above mentioned time-wasters.

Each are exceedingly honest. It is just a rock. That box is useless. Fidget spinners just spin. They are dumb and pointless — and proudly so.

But in a 140 character-count era, when stupidity is veiled as boldness,  ego as confidence and cowardice as courage, it’s a relief to be told honestly what you’re getting for your investment.

Even if it is crap.

 

 

 

 

 

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