Worldcon Oddity: Peeing in Helsinki

Every worldcon I’ve been to in recent years has had its own oddities. In Spokane, it was four days of breathing smoke from wildfires on the US/Canadian border. In London, it was staying an hour from the con on a cramped sailboat that had been misleadingly billed on Airbnb as a houseboat. Also, there was Wardrobe Malfunction Day, when my belt broke and I walked around the convention center holding my pants up with both hands.

In Helsinki, it was peeing in the convention center restrooms. The urinals looked perfectly normal, but there was nothing to warn you that they flushed automatically both before and after use. So you would step up to the fixture and before you could even reach to do what you had come to do—floosh!—the thing would flush energetically in your face. (It didn’t spray literally in your face, but it felt as though it was about to.) Granted, it fit with the image of Scandinavian cleanliness, but it was certainly disconcerting.

Startling, too, was the high-speed hand-dryer mounted next to one sink, so close that when you stepped up to wash your hands, you got an instant blast of hot air on your left shoulder.

Perhaps weirdest were the urinals in one restaurant, which apparently had been installed by a very tall Viking plumber—because they were mounted too high on the wall for a person of mere modest height like me to use. I briefly contemplated ballistic trajectories of peeing upward and outward and hoping for the best, but I finally opted to choose other means. I’m sure the janitorial staff thanked me.

We now return you to our regular non-weird programming.

Boaty McBoatface, Meet Trainy McTrainface

Do Swedish authorities have a better sense of humor than British authorities? Maybe. The British public, in an internet poll, voted to name a new oceanographic research ship Boaty McBoatface (which, for the record, I think is an excellent name for a serious new science platform.) The UK’s Natural Environment Research Council overruled the poll, though, and named the new ship the Royal Research Ship Sir David Attenborough . They didn’t discard the Boaty name, thank Heaven; that name went to the remote submersibles that would be working from the ship. The new Boaty has already gone to work, studying the abyssal currents of the Antarctic, as part of climate warming research.

Meanwhile, in a Swedish poll to name a new train, the spirit of Boaty rose up and won the name of Trainy McTrainface. And the Swedish train authorities said, “You got it!” The new name will go on this handsome train.

 

This Is the Droid We’re Looking For!

posted in: quirky, robots, space | 0

Definitely the droid you’re looking for, if you’re looking for a cute buddy who’d be at home with R2 or BB8. He has, unfortunately, the boring name of Int-Ball. You could have done better than that, NASA! You’ll have to travel to the International Space Station to hang with him, though. There you’ll find him floating around, maneuvering via little internal fans, taking pictures of whatever Ground Control wants him to take pix of. Hey—not in there, little Int!

from Astronomy Pic of the Day

 

 

Probing Time!

A colonoscopy without sedation? Not so bad, reports this reporter. Somewhat uncomfortable, yes. But it was pretty interesting to watch on the monitor. And leaving with a clear head? And being able to enjoy a cold one (of whatever kind) later that evening, and not feeling like you’re losing a whole additional day? Yeah, that seems like a good trade-off to me. I’ll probably do the same next time.

Which, sorry to say, will be in just three years. Oh well. I’m healthy.

And now, where’s that pizza?

From the movie Paul:

How Can You Not Like Tardigrades?

I have just finished our taxes, and in celebration I am toasting the tardigrade! This hardy little critter can survive the vacuum of space, the cold of near absolute zero, and temperatures up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. These little extremophiles are tough! All it asks is some moss to suck on. How can you not admire the tardigrade, who is sort of cute, in the same way certain breeds of dogs are cute.

You’ll like this short video about them on Curiosity.com. (I couldn’t find a way to embed it here.)

Are tardigrades the secret to panspermia, the seeding of life through the universe? I wonder.

 

“So, I Just Washed My Clothes in Plant Food?”

posted in: family, humor, quirky | 2

Apparently so. The above was the plaintive cry of the daughter I will call Pip, when she heard me ask the daughter I will call Mouse if she knew what was in the detergent bottle sitting next to the washing machine. The bottle clearly said Arm & Hammer Free & Clear detergent, and I had no reason to think otherwise when I picked it up off the floor and put it on the shelf. A day or two later, I went to use it—but when I shook it, I thought it felt like water, not detergent. So I put it back down on the floor and made a note to ask the troops.

A little time passed. When I finally asked my daughters, Mouse said, “Oh yeah—that’s for you to water my plants while I’m away. Don’t worry—it has plant food already added.” And that’s when Pip, listening in disbelief, realized what she had just used to launder her clothes.

Plant food! Water for plants! Labels, people—this is why God gave us labels, and big black markers! Caramba!

(Wondering: How can people who are so smart…?)

 

Schrödinger’s Cat in Space!

Conduct your own experiment with Schrödinger’s Cat in space! Go to APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day) and press the button to see if the astronaut is holding a picture of a live cat or a dead one. You have to go to APOD; it won’t work here. Are you determining the course of the universe, or splitting it into another set of infinite branches? What do you think? I know which interpretation I favor, but pick your own. (No one knows which is right! Who says science has already answered all the great questions?)

Oh, and Happy April 1st!

 

Cat Dances on Keyboard, Author Gets Last Word

The perp. Goes by the moniker Moonlight.

I’m sure every writer has either had this happen, or had nightmares of it happening: You finish up a nice bit of work and walk away from the computer. Do you think about the havoc your cat can wreak on your work? No, you do not. And when you return, hours later, having forgotten all about it, you find gibberish on the screen in place of your finely turned prose.

Yeah, it just happened to me. Look at Moonlight. Doesn’t she look innocent and cuddly? Well, cuddly she is, but innocent she is not. No, this kitty tried to rewrite my chapter for me. Bad kitty! Seriously, she’s a terrible writer. Here’s a sample: [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[… What kind of writing is that?

Yes, of course I had saved my work. (How stupid do you think I am? No, on second thought…) I saved, and furthermore, it was backed up automatically to Dropbox. What I failed to do, though, was to close Scrivener before I walked away. Scrivener auto-saves anything you write. So your cat dances on your keyboard (or parks her fuzzy butt on it for warmth), and Scrivener obligingly saves all her new work for you. And the new work gets saved to Dropbox!

That’s what I found when I came back to my laptop, hours later.

What to do? Dropbox’s “deleted versions” to the rescue! I went online to my Dropbox account and looked for the mostly recently changed file in my Scrivener folder. (That took a little while, owing to the spaghettified file structure of my book, but never mind that.) Scrivener saves each chapter as a little rtf file, and sure enough, the last-saved file was time-stamped half an hour after I left the house! Caught you, you little scalawag!

Dropbox saves a number of older versions. It’s not even remotely obvious how to find them, but I eventually discovered if you click on the file you want, then click the little icon with three dots at the top, it offers to show you the version history. And there’s where you find your pre-cat-dancing version, and restore it to its rightful place.

Hah! Show you, you little furball!

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