Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What do non-native speakers of English drink?

Or maybe this is what happens to Danes who are not happy -

Cup of S. Green, anyone?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Disposing of the body

Warning! Cat owners with small children who tease their cats may find this disturbing, or at least thought-provoking!

I caught a glimpse of something suspicious going past the office door and arrived on the scene in time to catch this:

Longer version (I had to cut it off at 2:00 because it was getting too violent):

Sunday, August 16, 2009

GTD crabbing

For kids of any age, there's nothing quite so satisfying on an early morning in the summer as going down to the rocky shore and fulfilling one's hunting instinct by fishing up a few crabs. All you need is a piece of string and, if you want to keep the crabs to show off to the other kids on the beach, a bucket. You dig up a mussel or two, bash it open with a rock, and lower it into the water on the end of a string. Pretty soon you're surrounded by crabs just waiting for a free ride, and you may even have to retreat to the rocks to keep from being mistaken for a giant bleached mussel. Crabs love mussels, but usually have trouble getting them open, while kids are pretty good at bashing things open with rocks, so it tends to be a win-win scenario, if temporarily disorienting for the crab.

Wait a minute, what's that bit about the mussel on the end of a string? After being smashed to smithereens, is the mussel expected to calmly clamp down onto the string and voluntarily be lowered into the water to literally feed the crabs? There's no easy way to tie on the mussel so it stays put long enough to work, so usually before you've even caught your first crab you're left holding a snarl of knots and surrounded by mussels in the water being greedily devoured by happy, uncaught crabs.

Fortunately, the above is now an image from the past. We're here to catch crabs, not to tie knots, and with nobody but the crabs to be impressed by our double-slipped triple-throw gordian bender when all they want is a bight, modern methods come to the rescue.

It turns out a simple office binder clip can hold onto a mussel at least as tightly as a crab can, and can be easily operated even by a three-year-old who has yet to learn how to tie his or her shoes. Clip on, lower away, and out come the crabs just as fast as you can pull them up.

Next: how to use binder clips in place of knots for mooring lines, sheets and halyards....

Monday, July 20, 2009

5 phases in the life of a home project

  1. Project X: discovery and transfer to mud room ("You can't keep that on the kitchen table!")
  2. Distraction of husband with Projects W, T, and F
  3. Transfer of X to cardboard box ("You never have time for that anyway!")
  4. Surreptitious disposal of X
  5. Purchase of expensive consumer product that doesn't work half as well as X.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Circling the cat

Finally dug out from last week's nonstop rush translation jobs, tried out Circle the Cat for a little recreation. Yes, it's highly addictive, but with a little luck and a little strategy it's also more doable than people seem to be reporting. All you have to do is make sure the cat never has more than one exit less than one circle away; sometimes this means going just a bit wide rather than trying to trap the cat all at once. Try it for yourself and let me know if you need help! ;)

Just to show it's possible:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Listen while you tweet

Last week, Samantha Stone wrote "don't forget to take time out from tweeting to listen". I'd like to expand on this just a bit, because after some pondering, the realization has dawned that it is actually possible to listen quite actively even in an apparently one-way environment like Twitter, and in doing so to enrich the lives of others.

Let's face it, most of us who spend nearly 24/7 in front of a computer screen are not necessarily renowned or sought out in the realverse because of our scintillating social skills, but even in a limited-bandwidth format like Twitter, we can all go a long way to improve how we communicate with others. After all, it is called social media.

In real life, one of the most important skills we can learn is listening. Coaches, mediators and other communicators often refer to three levels of listening, sometimes called internal, focused and global listening. In Level I, you may hear what someone is saying, but you're still tuned in to your own thought stream, while in Level II, you lean forward attentively and start to become aware of what the other person is thinking. In Level III, you are fully absorbed in the other person's story, like a good book or movie, to the exclusion of your own senses – you actually feel what they are feeling. Try it and you'll be surprised by how hard it can be to tune yourself out and others in, but you'll also be amazed by how much more you are appreciated by those around you. These days, listening to someone even on Level II is a memorable gift you can give to those you still occasionally meet who have real lives, such as your family, friends and colleagues.

In your fascinating online life, if you can't see the other person's body language or even hear their voice, you're probably not about to get sucked into a dream vortex while staring at TweetDeck, but by your own tweets you can certainly show others how interested you are in what they're saying.

So let's apply some of the principles of listening to the way we tweet (with) others. By analogy, Level I tweets are self-absorbed updates like "I make $5k/month on Twitter and so can you: http://IconU.com" that usually result in a quick unfollow. Level II tweets show at least a passing interest in starting a conversation, perhaps in the form of a question "Anybody else #tried those #new #marshmallow #bagels?". A Level III tweet, though, should warm your tweet-ee's heart and is almost guaranteed to evoke a response: "Wow, I can almost smell those blueberry pancakes! Do you serve them on every cruise?"

Now let's break down a good Level III tweet and see what's involved:
  1. A response to what the other person is tweeting
  2. An open, outwardly-directed question encouraging further dialog
  3. A tone of respect or appreciation
Now you might say that No. 3 is optional, but although I'll admit it's a bit of a lost art these days, it is possible to disagree with someone and still respect them. If you're not showing respect or appreciation for your, uh, tweet-ee as a person, chances are you're engaged in a diatribe and not a dialog, and that really is tweeting yourself poorly.

I'm as much a culprit here as the next hapless tweeb, so I'm writing this to myself too: when's the last time you wrote a tweet that shows you're listening?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Glued-up paper airplane for tots

A while ago I mentioned a nonfolded paper airplane that could be made really quickly, and I've since turned out a fair number of them myself. But when one of the boys got tired of this one and asked for a "real airplane with wings", we had to take it to the next step.
This is real simple and every bit as fast to make as the paper loop plane, and the great part about it is that the wide surfaces of the triangular fuselage mean you don't have to make any special glue tabs to attach the wings and tail.

Start by cutting three strips about ¾" wide off the short end of your paper. As for the loop plane, fold the first strip lengthwise in half, then fold the long edges in to meet the first fold and glue it together to make a triangular tube for the fuselage:

Cut one of the other two strips in half, and glue one of these halves to the remaining long piece to make the reinforced main wing:

Fold the remaining small strip in half to make the V-tail:

Now glue the wing to the fuselage about 1/3 to halfway back, and glue the V-tail on the end like this:

The wings will droop a bit, especially before the glue is completely dry, and they'll bend up in flight under the weight of the plane if left this way. Add some camber to the wings to correct the droop, and add a bit of dihedral by bending up slightly where they meet the fuselage:

You can go ahead and start flying as soon as you've finished, although you may need to tweak it a bit as the glue dries. Don't throw it, just give it a gentle shove pointing slightly downwards. If the nose pulls up and it stalls, bend the trailing edges of the V-tail slightly down, and if it pulls to one side, try just bending down the side of the V opposite the turn. If it continues to stall no matter what you do, roll up a small strip of paper and shove it in the nose (of the plane) for some extra weight:

This is a really good flier and can be trimmed just like a real airplane. The V-tail or "ruddervator" is also used on real planes and works very well, as long as you think about the up/down and right/left consequences of any changes you make in its "control surfaces". You can also get better flying performance if you make the main wings and fuselage from the long side of your paper, but at the risk of lower strength. You can counter this some by making the fuselage double-thickness, and the extra weight will also make it fly smoother and faster. Different parts of the wings and tail will affect the flight of the plane at different speeds, so don't make too many changes at once between flights.