Sunday, April 28, 2013

the Hardly Potter dream

Thank you brain.  It just dished up one of those dreams so perfect and strange and funny I woke up laughing.  Couldn't have come up with this stuff through any rational means ...

When Harry Potter first arrived at Hogwarts, he was given an entrance exam (which nobody else had to take).  Based on the results, he was sent to the not-so-famous school on the other side of the tracks, called Dumbledown's School.  Sign at the gate: "No owls allowed."  Among the administrators it was known as Dumbledown's School for Really Inconvenient People.  It was a series of really gothic  group homes with way too many towers.  Parts of the school were just unfinished graphics, and if the kids wandered in there, they would have to go home and wash the pixel dust from their hair.

During the limited school hours, the kids learned how to make Pop-Tarts and Spaghetti-O's, how to unfreeze ice cubes by smashing them with a hammer, and how to remove a dozen types of arcane stains from piles of laundry.

For most of the day they worked out in a peat pog, cutting up little slices of fuel for the big furnace downstairs.  If they found any bog people buried in the muck, there was a brief ceremony, and the body was sent to the school medical examiner, who was (of course), Quincy M.E. in a deep purple robe with sparkly bits on the cuffs.  Sadly, every case turned out to be a ritual strangulation, so Quincy was writing a treatise on decipher the ancient tattoos.

Instead of quidditch, each group home had a team of sorts, and they get together to toss cow pies.  Harry could catch a 40-yard whoozie like the best of them.  But being the best of "them" was never good enough for Harry.

One day, while Harry was out in the peat bog, complaining, Hagred came riding along doing whatever the heck Hagred does out in the woods.  He fell off the wagon and crushed Harry flat.    Harry was such a pancake, literally two-dimensional, they had to take him to Hogwarts to pump some 3d juice into him.  And that's how they found out about the "clerical error".

So that's how Harry really got into the famous school for wizards.  Snape claimed to know nothing about this, but was unusually prone to fits of dark laughter.

I don't know which faulty neurons fed me this one, but it made my day.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Meteor mayhem

Here's an unlikely scenario ... a small asteroid (about 45 meters across) passes a mere 17,000 miles (28,000 km) from Earth.  That's close in galactic terms, but it's still, you know, 17,000 miles away.  What makes last Friday special was that a few hours before that closest approach, this happened: one of the brightest meteor strikes on Earth in the past century.

What's fun about this is that there's no reason to think the two events are related.  All accounts have the meteor coming in from the opposite direction.  Of course, folks online spent days trying to twist things around to force a connection.

Maybe that meteor was orbiting the asteroid?  No.  That tiny roid probably couldn't hold a tennis ball in orbit at a few hundred miles.

Maybe that meteor broke off from the asteroid a gazillion years ago and is part of the same stream of debris?  No.  Moving the other way?

Maybe observers got the directions wrong?  Sure, start doubting the obvious.  Each object had a very clear direction, no error about it.

Yeah, but maybe there's a conspiracy to keep us from feeling threatened?  To get here, we have to doubt the obvious, make stuff up, and fall off a diving board.  Stop it.

Two things CAN happen without there being any connection.  Heck, the other day I had two big ebay orders, one from a guy name Xiang and one named Zhang, thousands of miles apart.  Aside from finding it odd, there's no sensible point to make about it.  In this case, think about it ... it's not like space rocks check their calendars: "Is there anyone else crashing into Earth today? No?  Okay, here I come!"

We can keep making wider and wider generalizations -- but both objects came from the Solar System! -- until we end up not saying anything at all.  Just record the events, learn what we can and move on.  Tons of debris enter the Earth's atmosphere every day.  Poof, fizzle, pop.  No big deal.  Some days are just a lot more strange.