The cure for boring meetings

By Charles Sutton on March 21, 2013

I have recently discovered the best thing to do during long (>1 hr) boring meetings. Obviously you want to avoid these, but sometimes you can’t. The common solution is to pull out your laptop and start sending email. For me this works for about an hour, after which I start to suffer from “email fatigue”, the gooey minded state that results from sending too many emails too quickly. What to do then?

The answer: Cat photos. Whenever someone says something that is breathtaking in its shortsighted preoccupation with pointless minutiae—I’m not saying that this happened in my meeting, of course—don’t check your email. Check your cat photos. Whenever the discussion comes back to the same old argument that people have been hashing out for years—again, this did not happen—cat photos. Never fails.

In time, you may come to like these meetings because of the unconscious association with cute photos. If that happens, you may want to lay off this strategy for a while.

If you have trouble finding cat photos on the Internet, just let me know and I’ll be happy to send you some.

(Response that I got from a certain someone: “Not pictures of your girlfriend?” My answer: “Well, you were in some of them.”)

Coffee versus beer

By Charles Sutton on February 23, 2013

If you ask yourself, “Should I have one more beer?,” well, if you had to stop yourself and ask, you probably shouldn’t.

If you ask yourself, “Do I need another cup of coffee?,” well, if you had to stop and ask, you probably need it.

My new favourite pages on Wikipedia

By Charles Sutton on February 9, 2013

I have several new favourite pages on Wikipedia:

  • A list of films that most frequently use the word “fuck”. Apparently there are people who count these things. Unsurprisingly, the winner is a documentary about the use of the word “fuck”.
  • List of lists of lists. There many pages on Wikipedia that are lists of lists, e.g., every country has a list of lakes in that country. So there is a page that lists all of the “Lists of lakes in Country X”. But this page is only one of the many lists of lists on Wikipedia. This list of all such pages is the Lists of Lists of Lists. [h/t: Daniel Renshaw]

Previously, my favourite page on Wikipedia hd been a description of the seven different forms of lightsaber combat. (Apparently, Samuel L Jackson’s character had developed a form to himself. That’s how he was able to beat the Emperor.) Sadly this page has since been deleted from Wikipedia, and it is impossible to retrieve deleted pages. There is a page on this topic on Wookiepedia, but it contains a scary level of detail that in my opinion renders it much less readable than the old Wikipedia page.

Related to the “fuck” list, I also like the study Delete Expletives?, which is a British study of people’s attitudes towards obscenity, particularly on television. One of the excellent features of this study is a ranked list of swear words in British English, based on a survey of over 1000 respondents.

Tags: silly

The first rule of academic politics

By Charles Sutton on January 25, 2013

“Don’t talk about academic politics”? Ha! I wish. Academic politics is nothing but talking. I guess that’s true for most all kinds of politics, really.

The First Rule of Academic Politics is: No matter what happens, you have to live with these people afterwards.

Another, perhaps dated, way to say this is that an academic department is like an episode of “Survivor”, except that instead of voting people off of the island, you vote them ON. To stay.

How I Make Coffee

By Charles Sutton on January 20, 2013

Pourover is a trendy and delicious way of making coffee. It is possible to make excellent coffee this way. This video by Matt Perger has a great technique for the Hario V60, which the one that I have been playing with since receiving it for my birthday.

Here’s a summary of the video. You will probably need to watch the vide for this to make sense:

12g coffee 200g water brewing time 2:20 total

  1. Add 50g water. Stir. Let bloom.
  2. At 0:30, add 50g water in outward spiral. Make sure no grounds are above water line
  3. At 1:00, add remaining 100g water in spiral pattern, again washing the grounds down the edges.
  4. Around 1:30 or so reseat dripper to even out bed of grounds

How do you know it’s 50g of water? Place your mug on top of a digital scale before pouring.

What kind of kettle do you pour the water from? Unfortunately, this really does matter. It’s important that the grounds be completely saturated with water, and that you pour the water slowly. Otherwise, you will create channels through the grounds through which most of the water will pass, causing part of the grounds to be overextracted and bitter. I am told that the Hario kettle is excellent, because it has a narrow swan neck which allows the water to poured slowly and precisely. But it also costs 50 pounds! It is difficult to find a similar kettle that is reasonably priced, but I have just gotten this Tiamo kettle and so far, so good.

[h/t: Artisan Roast]

Tags: coffee, hobbies