Friday, August 22, 2014

Feet per character

As I type at 37,000 feet on my flight home, I was contemplating how far apart the characters are as we fly (there’s not a lot to do up here on a 5 ½ hour flight).  In other words, how far apart are the characters I'm typing right now at our current speed?  Time for some math.

Plane speed = 584 mph = 856 feet per second
Typing speed = ~40 words per minute = ~240 characters per minute = 4 characters per second.

Therefore 856 fps / 4 cps = 214 feet per character.

So each character I'm typing here would be 214 feet apart if they were to fall to the ground as I type them right now.  The previous sentence would be stretched out 24,466 feet or over 4 ½ miles.  Everything you’ve just read would span 28 miles!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Men's Modern Shaving

There's not a lot for me to do while I'm shaving; it doesn't take that much concentration.  So I was thinking today how absolutely easy it is to do.  It's really an simple process that seems more like I'm just scraping shaving cream off my face.  The razor glides almost effortlessly.  The razor has 5 blades (yes, I'm a Gillette Fusion guy) so the risk of cutting is almost gone.

There are some mechanics at work in the new blade technology.  If you use a certain amount of pressure (force) on a single blade against your skin, all the pressure is applied to the single blade edge.  However, with a 5-blade razor, that forces is spread across all 5 blade edges, reducing the risk of cuts.

I think back to watching my grandfather shave when i was a very little.  He had a small brass "safety" razor, as it was called, with a single blade.  If he caught his face the wrong way with that one blade, it was painful and messy, the shave was interrupted and wherever you cut was sore all day.  The photo in the inset is his safety razor on top of my modern Fusion, 50 years apart).

So if you don't get too wrapped up in the physics of grabbing, stretching and cutting the whiskers on your face, the blades do their work and you're basically back to scraping shaving cream off your face.

My next outing is to go "old school" and get a straight-edge barber shave, complete with hot towels and steam.  Coming soon I hope.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Optimist vs. the Pessimist

No matter what they did or thought, it was going to rain.

The Pessimist spent the day worrying that it was going to rain, and when it would rain, how long and how hard, and that it was their bad luck, and then lamented afterwards that the day was a loss.

The Optimist enjoyed the entire day and only for the 30 minutes or so their day or their plans were interrupted, not ruined.  Perhaps they even enjoyed the rain break.

One wasted the entire day focused on a brief event, the other experienced the same rain event but it was only a brief time in a otherwise great day.  That's the difference between them.  No matter what, it was going to rain.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

This is (Toll) Bullshit

In an Avis rental car a couple weeks ago, I was driving back to Orlando Airport after 3 days at a conference for work.  There are several tolls along the way and we used the cash booths to avoid using the rental car transponder and associated fees.

However, the last toll was unmanned, had no cash option, only the FL SunPass lanes.  This meant I had a choice of running the toll and incurring fines or flipping on the rental car toll transponder.  The one toll was $1.25.  Avis however charges an eToll Convenience Fee of $3.95 per day of the rental regardless of how many days you use their transponder.  Use it once and you pay for all the days of your rental.

So my $1.25 toll ended up costing $17.05.  This is bullshit.  The state of Florida knows it and the rental car companies know it too.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Why do baseball games start at 1:05 or 7:05?

For the most part, football, hockey and basketball start times are always listed as the top or bottom of the hour.  But baseball lists odd start times, 5 minutes after the top or bottom of the hour is common, but I've also seen 7 minutes and 11 minutes.  Why?

Broadcast times are conveniently set at the top or bottom of the hour to fit TV and radio schedules.  And it's no surprise, in fact, common sense, that the first pitch or kick off or tip off or puck drop does not happen precisely at that time.  There is a bit of pre-game, line-up announcements, ads and even some pageantry.  I get it, I accept it, and for the most part enjoy it.  Give me a few minutes to get settled in.

So why is baseball different?  Why does baseball feel compelled to state the obvious, that the first pitch is going to take a few minutes after the broadcast starts.  The other sports are no different in that they require a few minutes to start the game.  I just feel a bit annoyed that baseball has to tell me, "hey cool your jets, the game doesn't start at 7:00.  It will be a few minutes later."  Yeah, no kidding.

I know baseball is steeped in tradition and the rule book is an enormous volume of rules, exceptions, and exceptions to the exceptions, which may hold some historic, romantic or traditional reason why the games list a start time after the top of the hour.  I've read some reasons that line-ups need to be given to the umpire 5 minutes before start time and he has the final say on beginning the game.  Fine, do what you gotta do.  I've figured out that a game, any game, will start a few minutes after the start of broadcast time.  Why is it necessary to say anything other than "Red Sox / Yankees, tonight at 7 pm"?

And it seems ironic that the one sport of the four majors that is not timed and has no time limit, feels the need to get all accurate about 5 minutes.  If I've committed to a game that's probably going to last a good 3 hours, maybe more, possibly much more, do we really need the disclaimer that the first pitch won't happen exactly at 7pm?  Hey baseball, it's not that important.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Size Matters

It's an old complaint that we pay for more and get less.  But some companies are getting very aggressive with this lately.  They may tell you that this was more in line with customer usage or feedback, but it is the quickest way to deliver less and charge the same.  Result, profits go up. Examples:

Remember the "half gallon of ice cream"?  Well the big brands don't sell that anymore.  Nearly all brands now sell a 1.5 quart size instead, a 25% reduction.  Same price.  We got screwed.

This one took place over a long time.  When I was a kid, tuna fish cans were 7 oz.  Over time, the can started getting smaller, 6 7/8 oz, then 6 3/4.  This was an easy cheat because no one complained about an 1/8 oz reductions in their tuna helpings.  Very small reductions, down to 6 oz.  Last year, tuna fish made a leap further to 5 oz.; no more screwing around with fractional reductions.  And this had a real impact on consumers.  5 oz is a useless size.  It is too big for an average sandwich but not big enough for 2 sandwiches.  So now I have to open a second can which results in waste because 2 cans is too much for 2 sandwiches.  That was a double win for the manufacturer in going to 5 oz cans.  The 7 oz can was perfect, 3 1/2 oz each.

Nuts.  We buy the Emerald brand of almonds in the plastic container.  These had been 11 oz for a long time, then 10 oz.  Suddenly they disappeared off the grocery store shelves a couple months ago.  Did they stop carrying them?  No, they were purging the old inventory and switched to a smaller 8.5 oz container, 22% smaller.  Did the price go down?  Yeah, right.

Get used to getting screwed, it comes at you from every direction.  Shop smart and speak with your wallet and your voice.

Why is the Golden Gate Bridge Beautiful and Different?

There is something about the GGB that sets it apart from all the others.  Having been an admirer for years (some say obsessed, but that's a misunderstanding), I gave some thought about just what it is that makes it unlike every other.

Certainly the color is uncommon.  There are some other bridges that use international orange and many silver bridges take on an orange glow at sunset.  So while the golden color fits the Golden Gate so well, that's not it alone.

IMO it is the design of the towers.

  • They are art deco in style.  Big openings that get smaller as you go up with lines that fit the 1930s yet remain classic today.
  • There are no X-shaped supports above the roadway.  This is huge.  The GGB towers have X-supports below the roadway and you can imagine how uninteresting it would look if they continued up to the top.  Just look at the SF Bay Bridge.  The X-supports all the way up those towers.  It takes away from its beauty and show no character.  Many bridge towers look like  they were built from an Erector set.  Even the George Washington Bridge in NY has one big opening in the tower above the roadway, but the rest of it looks unfinished.  The GGB towers make all the difference.
  • And the towers are a presence like no other in every view from and around the GGB.  The city of SF, Alcatraz and the Bay, Sausalito, the Marin Headlands, the opening to the Pacific.