Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stupid Human Tricks

When I started in IT over a decade ago, temping on a Help Desk, my cavalier (i.e. reckless) attitude toward computers helped me to learn a great deal about how applications worked.

It also destroyed quite a few machines in my care.

One particular evening in the late 90s, I was experimenting with a new media driver and reduced my poor Dell to a black DOS screen with only a flashing cursor (yes, not even a C prompt).

Rebuilding it from scratch took about five hours, and to kill time in the wee hours of the morning, I taught myself how to throw pencils in the ceiling -- not dart-style, where you level the point towards your target with an even-handed throw, but knife-style, where you hold the point, take a breath, and fling with a prayer.

I got very good at this and once put 32 pencils and a letter-opener in the ceiling of a co-worker's office when I'd learned he'd given notice without telling me first.

And although technically this is verboten at my current job, I will still occasionally find the odd Mirado Black Warrior stuck in the ceiling of a copy room or computer lab.

And in such cases, I often can't resist tossing the lonely lead stalactite a mate. (Yes, I know pencils are graphite not lead, but I can't resist alliteration either.)

Unfortunately, my skills are no longer what they were, and it can take me a few throws for the muscle memory to kick in. And when it does, I find myself conscious of exactly what my hand is doing before the throw: loosely wagging the pencil while holding the tip between my thumb and middle finger.

Now, doing this doesn't ensure the pencil will hit its mark; but whenever I don't do this, I always miss.

And it finally occurred to me why this is: For a knife-style (or dare I say Xena-style) throw, the object will spin one-and-a-half times before striking. (See http://bigthink.com/ideas/21815 for details from the Great Throwdini). So what I think I'm intuitively doing here is gauging the weight and length of the pencil so that I am holding it at the right spot and sending it off at the right speed.

Now, this isn't something I seem to be able to teach in a literal way (i.e. hold the pencil here and let it leave your hand at such-and-such a time). But I have been able to "teach" people by just saying: "Throw it as though you want to hit the ceiling with the eraser."

Why does this work? I have no clue. But if you work in an office where the ceilings of a copy or storage room are nicely mottled, try it out.

Grab a sharp-pointed Mirado Black Warrior (they are the most aero-dynamic), long, if possible, as that will give you the most momentum. With your thumb, hold it point-up against the intermediate phalange of your middle finger. Then wag it loosely a few times to get a feel for the weight and chuck the eraser towards in the ceiling.

And let me know what happens.

And, yes, I know you all want to know what happened in Tokyo.

I'm still processing it all, so it will take a while for me to put anything down in writing. But it was incredible ... a dream come true.

I feel very fortunate and humbled to have found PURE -- a great bunch of people who are doing great things.

Here is a shot of us, joined by some of the Bellyqueen and Rising Siren dancers at the Halloween Parade. And check out photos 2 and 5 on CNN!

Don't we look awesome??

VILLAGE HALLOWEEN PARADE 2010  -   Greenwich Village, Manhattan NYC   -   10/31/10