The Sense of Time

There are a lot of scary things about getting older, but the scariest and the weirdest is the change in perception of time. I’ve encountered this idea twice, once in Stephen King’s short story “My Pretty Pony”, and another in the movie “Blue Thunder”. At the time, in late 80s I thought that time “flies” only when you are enjoying something, and “creeps” when you don’t. Saturdays go by faster than Mondays. Turns out, as you get older time picks up pace, everything becomes a blur, good or bad.

Cult 80s movie “Blue Thunder” has this little bit about a helicopter pilot playing with his fancy digital Casio watch that had an interesting analog countdown feature. He was using the watch to test his time perception, claiming that “it was the first thing to go when you go over the edge.”

Watch buffs know this watch as Casio AA-85 and the analog feature as Module 101. I always wanted one of these, and now I finally picked one up on eBay for a song. I know I need it – it seems to me that I am really losing the proper perception of time, it really sped up for me.

In Stephen King’s short story “My Pretty Pony”, an old man is instructing his grandson on the nature of time after watching him lose in a hide and seek game to a kid who counted too fast. He says, that there are three times, only one of which is real. When you are little, it seems that the time goes by very, very slowly. I remember that very distinctly – days were very long, even the summer vacation took forever. Then, when you are about 14, time starts to be “real” – neither slow nor fast. As you get older time picks up pace, only slowing down when you are badly hurt. He called time “a pretty pony with a wicked heart.”

I don’t know about you, but time is definitely speeding much more now than when I was younger. It’s pretty scary.

[Update] Bought on eBay, fixed and even found a similar watch band:

I Wonder What Are They Shaped Like

A man is walking down the street in New York City when he comes across a shop with clocks and watches hanging in the front window.
”Good!” he thinks to himself. ”I can get my watch fixed.”
He walks into into the shop and says to the man behind the counter, ”My watch stopped a couple days ago. I’d like you to fix it.”
The shopkeeper replies incredulously, ”I don’t repair watches, I’m a mohel!”
”Then why do you have all those watches and clocks hanging in your window?”
The mohel replies, ”What would you suggest I hang there?”

Personhole Covers

Forgetting for a second about my gender neutral language skills  let’s talk a bit about manhole covers.

In case you haven’t noticed, they come in an amazing variety of shapes, sizes and designs. The designs are often amazingly elaborate and beautiful. Just like I am not the first programmer to be asked “why manholes are round and not square” in an interview, I am not the first person to notice and write about the designs.

Probably the most popular photography book about manhole covers is Manhole Covers by Mimi and Robert  Melnick. I have it, and it’s outstanding. This time when I checked at Amazon, there was also Quilting With Manhole Covers – A Treasure Trove of Unique Designs from the Streets of Japan  as well as copycats Designs Underfoot and Treasures Underfoot.

Amazon also has these kick ass fake covers for hanging on the wall (as it’s nearly impossible to hang a real 600 lb manhole cover and rim on a wall ).

Just like there’s no shortage of books, there’s no shortage of websites as well. Staring into the hypnotic designs can be very relaxing.

Why did I decide to write about manhole covers today? Simply because New York Post recently ran a story about a somewhat fleshy skateboarder who fell backwards onto an electrified Con Ed manhole cover.  That resulted in her getting literally branded with a design on her back. Even a few letters of “Con Edison” are visible:

The girl is lucky – manhole covers are known to shoot high up in the air due to steam buildup– and a flying 600 lb cover could  leave a stronger impression.

Also  it could be  “Made in India” instead of “Con Ed” as most of the new manhole covers are produced there for 25 cent a pound these days. There’s an excellent article about it from which I just have to pull a few choice quotes :

“In India, the making of manhole covers is vastly man’s work – and it has been for generations. “They say the skill can only be done by a man,” Agarwal said. “The molding can never be done by a female.” “

“The progressive nature of an otherwise primitive workplace exhibits itself in other ways. Inspirational sayings written in English are hung throughout the foundry, such as “Quality is free, but it is not a gift.”

Ironically, few workers can read the sign, let alone the names of the cities on the covers they create.”

Now, unless you are a programmer who’s encountered the ubiquitous manhole question, you must be wondering, what’s the right answer to the question? Why aren’t they square? Let me give you a geek’s answer.

First of all they are not all round – there are square, rectangular, hexagonal and other ones. Here’s an  example a of a square manhole cover (Note “India” on the bottom). This is a small one, but much bigger ones exist as well, I just can’t find a good example that’s both square and says “India” right now.

The answer they are expecting is that it is impossible to drop a round disk into a round hole of the same size. But there’s also a shape called the Reuleaux triangle that has the same property:

With the help of a Reuleaux triangle shaped bit and a template  it’s possible to drill square holes. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find any of these drill bits for sale.

Also, a round manhole cover is easier to roll. Duh. You might also  tell the interviewer about my fishing buddy Michael Prior’s and ‘s