Day 103: on being disappointed and, also, crushed

This morning I discovered a flagrant case of plagiarism, and it had nothing to do with grading.

A guy on OKCupid (pilot; profile name “smoothlandings”; nuff said) had blatantly stolen my answer to one of the several inane questions that you are supposed to answer as part of your profile.

I was simultaneously outraged and flattered. I am quite vain about my OKCupid profile. Here was proof that it was so good that other people would shamelessly steal it. Smoothlandings had pretty much copied and pasted my entire answer, word for word, without making any attempt to disguise it.

Now that’s smooooooth.

I contacted him, accusing him of profile pilfering. He immediately copped to it.

“Guilty. I have read thousands of these profiles but never anything as clever as that. The sincerest form of flattery,” he wrote.

In response to this barefaced fawning, I felt the urge rise inside me to murmur coyly, “oh, you flatter me, sir! Thousands you say? Never anything so clever?”

However, I refrained from replying at all in order to maintain my dignity.

When I went back and looked more closely at his profile, I felt disappointment as well as flattery.

I was disappointed because I would like to have discovered that the person who thought my profile was witty shared my sense of humor. Sadly this was not the case, and this led to me spiraling into a mini-crisis in which I wondered,“if he deems my wit funny enough to incorporate into his, and I deem his wit lame, ipso facto, is my wit also lame?”

Smoothlandings’ profile is a relentless stream of one-liners, doubtless plagiarized from all the women’s profiles he looks at and thinks, “hmm … that person sounds funny! She’s not dateable, obviously, but don’t mind if I do help myself to a few of her choicer bon mots!”

Some of his profile is funny, but mostly it’s just exhausting in the way that a self-styled joker will passive-aggressively hog the floor under the guise of entertaining the room.

Yes, I’m being uncharitable. But he stole my sodding profile, I’m allowed to be uncharitable. And yes, of course I sympathize with the urge to make one’s profile funny. In my case, though, my profile errs more on the side of funny peculiar than funny ha ha.

I’ll give you an example. Here is what smoothlandings lists (this is NOT the part he stole from me) under the “I spend a lot of time thinking about” heading:

I spend a lot of time thinking about:

  1. Why the word “abbreviation” is so long (five syllables) that it has its own dictionary abbreviation: “abbr”.
  2. How elevators know how to close their doors when you come running.
  3. Why the shower fixtures in every hotel are different.
  4. How Japanese restaurants get those little towels hot enough to give you third degree burns without having them catch fire.
  5. Why you’ll be with someone in a restaurant and they’ll say “Eww! This tastes DISGUSTING!” And then they’ll add “Here, try it.”

And here is mine:

 I spend a lot of time thinking about:

  1. The fact that I resent being commanded to “think outside the box” by a dating-website-profile-template. Why don’t YOU think outside the box, OKCupid algorithm? Didn’t see that one coming, did you?
  2. If an enormous plumed helmet fell out of the sky killing a person minding their own business below it, would that person really be “dashed to pieces,” as Horace Walpole expresses the fatal effect of such an event in his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto? A china cup might be “dashed to pieces”; a rock might be dashed to pieces. But wouldn’t a person, more properly speaking, be squashed, crushed, or sliced?
  3.  David Hume.
  4.  Whether I am a “new spinster” or just an old spinster.

I’m sorry smoothlandings, but I think your list is derivative subpar Seinfeld-esque observational humor. Yes, mine is smartarsey and not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, but I don’t think I am everyone’s cup of tea, so I might as well be upfront about it.

Regarding item 2, I’ve become perhaps unhealthily preoccupied with the finer points of this conundrum recently. While I kindly spare potential suitors further meditations on this topic, I will not be so sparing of you, indulgent readers.

I’ve harbored, for a while, certain doubts about this whole death-by-enormous-helmet scenario.

Allow me to refresh your memory of the scene:

“ … what a sight for a father’s eyes! — he beheld his child dashed to pieces, and almost buried under an enormous helmet, an hundred times more large than any casque ever made for human being, and shaded with a proportionable quantity of black feathers.”

My doubts were twofold. (I use the past tense here, because I will be proposing, shortly, a solution to these doubts.) First of all, aerodynamically speaking, it seemed unlikely to me that an enormous helmet would land right side up. [1]

Second of all, as opposed to, say, if a meteor, grand piano, or the foot of Cupid [2] landed upon you, if an enormous helmet were to fall from the sky, right side up, there would actually be a pretty good chance that you wouldn’t be crushed by it, right? Because if it did happen to fall directly on top of you, right side up, then you might well be protected by the “casque” like dome. Moreover, in the case of this particular feather-adorned helmet, mightn’t the plumage on the top of the helmet have a speed-retarding and impact-softening effect?

There was only one thing to do in a situation such as this: ask a local physicist. So I did. And, he being an experimentalist by training, I should have predicted his answer, which was: “test it!”

And so I did.

Now, obviously this test was not strictly scientific nor can the results be necessarily extrapolated and applied to the imaginary helmet described in The Castle of Otranto because the materials, circumstances, etc. were all significantly different.

First of all, the helmet I used (borrowed from my children, natch) was plastic, not steel (as we are told the helmet in the novel is) and lacking in plumage. Secondly, it was not dropped from the heavens, but was dropped by me from various heights onto various surfaces. I dropped it a total of ten times. The first four times I dropped it from a distance of about five feet onto a wooden surface. Each time it landed wrong side up, that is to say, on its dome. It didn’t matter which way up I held it when I dropped it.

The fifth and sixth times, I dropped it from a greater height, about eight feet, onto dirt. For this portion of the experiment, the neighbor’s cat was my witness. She was riveted but also completely unhelpful. The fifth time it again fell wrong side up. But the sixth time, to my genuine surprise and delight, it landed right side up.

For the final portion of the experiment, I stepped things up a notch. I co-opted a Playmobil figure into playing the role of Conrad. I dropped the helmet from a height of about twenty feet onto a concrete surface, a surface upon which I had placed, in a standing position, my innocent victim. The first three times I dropped it from this height, not only did it land (after bouncing) wrong side up, but also I couldn’t get it to land remotely near Conrad, let alone hit him. But, AMAZINGLY, on my tenth and final attempt, this is what happened: I dropped the helmet; it landed directly, wrong side up, on Conrad, felling him immediately, and then came to rest right side up next to him. Here are some photographs showing the results of the final drop:

experiment 3

The fallen prince. R.I.P., Conrad.

experiment 2

The fallen prince in the foreground, with the ominous instrument of his death gleaming in the background.

In conclusion, judging from my experiments, I would guess that if you are hit by a falling enormous helmet, the helmet will land on you dome side up, immediately and fatally crushing you, before coming to rest, possibly but not necessarily right side up, in the near vicinity. And that scenario is quite consistent with Walpole’s description in the novel so maybe he conducted similar experiments with a papier-mâché helmet from the ramparts at Strawberry Hill, and came to the same conclusion.

Readers, I know what you’re thinking: “you should totally apply for a major grant so that you can test this out with an accurately sized custom-made helmet!!!”

Who wants to be my co PI?


[1] Now, I’m not sure that it’s stated explicitly that the helmet is right-side up, but it is implicitly the case (because the feathers are described twitching on the top of the helmet) and the few early illustrations I’ve found of this scene also depict it landing right side up.

helmet 1

This is from an 1824 edition of the novel.


Not sure of the date of this image.

[2] For the foot of Cupid, see the Monty Python opening credits.


7 thoughts on “Day 103: on being disappointed and, also, crushed

  1. Susan says:

    Please keep the smartarsey-ness coming. Imagining you dropping a helmet from some height on your leafy street? Priceless. Nice photos too.

  2. Mahin says:

    Ok … How much had you had to drink before you wrote this post (or conducted any of the experiments referenced therein)? And it’s OK to be honest. I’ve done some of my best work under the influence of alcohol.

    • Honestly, Mahin, and perhaps this is actually the sad part, I was absolutely and completely sober both when I conducted the described experiments and while writing this post. NOW I’m drunk though. (Kidding. It is 9 am here).

  3. martinus scriblerus says:

    “the way that a self-styled joker will passive-aggressively hog the floor under the guise of entertaining the room.” — sick burn

    One day you will collect a portion of this blog into Nakamura-meets-Bloggess book. This will be the third entry.

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