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.


Day 87: OK, Stupid.

“We blush for the conduct of those, who behave themselves foolishly before us; and that tho’ they shew no sense of shame, nor seem in the least conscious of their folly.”

(David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, 371)


32 Los Angeles, CA (11 miles) Man

Self summary

I’m all about working hard and playing hard. I’m all about checking things off my list and feeling good about my accomplishments. I’m finally ready to let that someone special out there discover me. I’m an irreverent maverick and I’m looking for a fellow traveler on this journey we call life.

What I’m doing with my life

Running a couple of start-ups. Living the dream. Being authentic. Hiking. Helping the disabled whether they want my help or not.

I’m really good at

  • Never giving up.
  • Telling it like it is.
  • Life hacking.
  • Living life on my own terms and creating my own destiny.
  • Surrounding myself with similarly driven individuals so as to maximize my potential.

Favorite books The Celestine Prophecy.

Favorite movies

  • The Notebook.
  • A Beautiful Mind.
  • Any biopic, really
  • Anything directed by Ron Howard.

Favorite shows. TV: I’m a cable news junkie. Concerts: you’ll always find me at a Dave Matthews show. I’ve seen him, like, five times. Art: I love art from other cultures. I went to the Louvre in Paris. That was a great show.

Favorite music World music. Doesn’t matter where it’s from as long it’s from the World.

Favorite food I’m strictly vegan but other than that I’ll eat anything as long as it’s ethnic. I’m known for my spectacular curries. The secret is more turmeric. Always. More. Turmeric. Tastes slightly bitter but has amazing ayurvedic healing properties.

First things people notice about me

  • My intense stare. Some women say it’s creepy but they’re wrong.
  • My relentless positivity.

6 things I could never do without

  • air
  • children; they are our future
  • love
  • hiking
  • meditation
  • hiking

I spend a lot of time thinking about

  • How much I am evolving as a human being every day.
  • The Dalai Lama. That dude has his shit together.

The most private thing I’m willing to admit

I cry during sex. Always.

You should message me if

  • You have your shit together.
  • You’re an “it” getter. [1]


[1] These are both real statements that I’ve seen under the “you should message me” tab of men’s profiles. Another, different, guy wrote me with the opener, “you seem like you have your shit together.” I really wanted to reply saying, “Sir, I assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. My shit is flying, messily, in all directions.” But I didn’t. It was another guy who wrote me who has the you-should-message-me if “you’re an ‘it’ getter” line.

I don’t get it. So I didn’t write him back.

More generally, I’ll admit to some fabrications in this profile (I haven’t read anyone ‘fess up to “helping the disabled whether they want my help or not,” to crying during sex, or to their relentless positivity); but there’s a lot that’s not made up, including The Celestine Prophecy, life hacking, Dave Matthews, the Dalai Lama, and pretty much every single cliché you can think of including “living the dream,” and “being authentic.” Oh, and hiking. So much bloody hiking.


Day 86: NotOK, Cupid

Last Wednesday evening, I for real joined OKCupid (and, yes, the profile I composed was very similar to the fake one I wrote for this blog) and since then have received 58 messages, approximately 3 of which appear to have been written by sane, literate humans, the rest of which are written either by robots, illiterate humans, insane humans, or some combination thereof. It’s been quite an eye-opener. If you’ve never been on a dating website or if you have been on a dating website, but you’ve not been in the market for straight men, you might find it interesting to see what kinds of messages women on dating websites receive from straight men or robots pretending to be straight men. The following are the most priceless nuggets I’ve received so far. And it was tough whittling it down to ten. I have not edited any of these except to remove any parts at the end providing name and contact information. But almost all of these are printed here in their entirety, i.e. they really are this abrupt. I considered offering snarky commentary but decided it would be redundant. These speak for themselves.

  1. Wow what a beautiful Angel i will never call you by your name i will always call you an Angel because you are so and beautiful hope to hear from you soon.
  1. Hi,
    Meet during the day? Wine? Hand holding?
  1. Hi, so why not on Saturday? Let me guess. I’m good at these kriptic things. Bloging. Right? Toast making. Naming your socks. Walking around in the dark looking at the floor like a crackhead?
  1. You’re super funny – I love you’re sence of humer. Any chance your 420 friendly and like guys with beards? I own an edible company, am in an open relationship. Im looking for fun new friends.
  1. Hey. Wasup happy hour?
  1. If the department had offered you a deal whereby you could avoid having to defend your dissertation but would have grown an extra toe, would you have taken it? It’d be a small toe, and it wouldn’t be too noticeable, but it would make shoe shopping much more challenging.
  1. Hello pretty sexy lady your beautiful can I please get 2 no u better if u don’t mind ok
  1. Friend,
    Greetings of the day.
    Would you like to be my friend?
    I like your pics.
    Breath of fresh air, Indeed.
    I do believe I like you.
    May I request you to read my profile in full please?
    You will find it the most well written, Honest, Straightforward and Truthful to the point.
    Your response is appreciated.
    Have a good day but
    Have a Great life.
  1. If youre looking for a 30swm boy toy to spend some time with. Hit me up. Youre so fine.
  1. hello there! how are you doing? BTW I am Sgt ——–…I just joined this site within the lil time interval of work… I would have loved to chat with you right now but I have got to get my ass off from here to patrol before it gets kicked off for me by the commandant lol

Day 78: my OKCupid profile


I am an ambiguous figure. I am not being evasive. That’s a statement of plain fact.

What I’m Doing With My Life

Mostly blogging in an effort to distract from the gnawing emptiness in my soul. Also have sorted out sock drawer in manner described by Marie Kondo, who says that if you ball your socks up they “are always in a state of tension.” Enough people are already aggravated with me, I don’t want to annoy my socks on top of everything else.

I’m Really Good At

Hiding in plain sight; slicing bread; making my psychiatrist laugh; finding valuable objects on the ground (so far I’ve found—on three separate occasions—two $100 dollar bills, and one Macbook Air. I kept the cash but not the Macbook Air) .

The First Things People Notice

The first thing they notice is either that I am a duck or that I am a rabbit. Depending on which of these they notice first, the second thing they notice is either that I am a rabbit or that I am a duck. The third thing they notice is that I bear an uncanny resemblance to the seventeenth-century poet John Milton. The fourth thing they notice is that I am either Australian or South African. The fifth thing they notice is that I become tetchy when my accent is mis-identified.

Favorite books, movies, music, shows, food

Book: reading’s not really my bag

Movie: Back To the Future

Music: “Medical Jones.” It’s an original song by my daughter about this cat. The cat’s name is “Medical Jones.” Honestly, once it’s in your head, you cannot stop singing it! [1]

Shows: Punch and Judy

Food: gluten

The Six Things I Could Never Do Without

Hmm. I’m trying to remember what a “Thing” is. Is it an object that only becomes visible when it’s dysfunctional? Like a dirty window? Let’s say that’s one then. What else. A sieve without any holes? No … wait, that would just be a bowl, wouldn’t it? Don’t count that one. Huh. This is way harder than I thought it was going to be. Let me approach this another way: the six things from eighteenth-century literature that I could never do without! Robinson Crusoe’s earthenware pot! Sophia’s muff! Pamela’s round-eared cap! The rock that Samuel Johnson kicked to refute Bishop Berkeley! Belinda’s deadly bodkin! And, last but not least, the enormous helmet that crushes Conrad in The Castle of Otranto! Hurrah!

I Spend A Lot Of Time Thinking About

… what it would feel like to be dashed to pieces by an enormous helmet; whether I am a “new spinster” or just an old spinster.

Typical Friday Night

Babysitting for my husband while he’s out on the town.

Most Private Thing I’m Willing to Admit

My PhD is actually from the University of Phoenix, not Harvard.

Message Me If

You have the answer to these three riddles:

What is born each night and dies each dawn?

What flickers red and warm like a flame, but is not fire?

What is ice which gives you fire and which your fire freezes still more?

If you would like an answer to your message, in addition please answer the following bonus riddle:

What is it that women most desire?


1853 engraving based on 1667 miniature by Faithorne

1853 engraving based on 1667 miniature by Faithorne

Oh wait, I just read OKCupid’s policy on photos. They stipulate that “you must appear in the photo!” a rule they insist upon so “that you will see real people, and they will see the real you.” I would just like to say that I think that this is a terribly misguided rule. I’m not sure I want to see real people, and I definitely don’t want them to see the real me! Not that there is a “real me”! (see David Hume, Gilbert Ryle, &c.)

Oh fine, here’s a “real” picture:

another wittgenstein duck-rabbit

Now, full disclosure: I am naked in this picture, which is against OKCupid’s profile-picture rules. But, I’d argue that it’s OK because you can’t see my torso, just my face. So I think I’m done! Now I’m just going to lie back and wait for the messages from my (few and unfit) suitors to start rolling in …


[1] I’m updating this post to include this footnote. I have this feeling that footnotes are against OKCupid policy but I’ll just have to risk it. The update is because I realized upon reflection that it was unfairly tantalizing of me to rave about this song without telling you the words so that you can sing it to yourself. The lyrics are:

Medical Jones, Medical Jones,

Medical, Medical, Medical Jones.

Medical Jones, Medical Jones,

This is the story of Medical Jones.


That’s it! It’s pretty easy to pick up. As for the tune, I’d give you the score, but unfortunately I don’t how to write music. But the beauty of this song is that it’s not really about the tune. Honestly, you can use almost any tune without any injury to the song. Enjoy!