Wonder Why Wednesday: Message In The Sky

I am sure we have all see the scene from a movie or television show where a man and a woman are standing in an open field and the woman seems confused as the why they are there. The music is really starting to build so you can tell something is about to happen, but what??

Before the woman can ask what they are doing there, the man smiles at her and says, “I didn’t know how to say this, so just look up.”

The woman looks to the sky and sees that an airplane has written a message in the clouds. Usually it is something romantic like “Will you marry me” or “Happy anniversary.” It always has to be something grand and dramatic. You’d never see the message “frozen pizza’s are on sale, do you mind picking up a couple next time you are at the store?”

I’ve see messages in the clouds like that in movies, but I can’t recall seeing that in real life.

Have you seen one?

Does that really happen? Is it one of those things that you are unable to see unless you are standing in that random field?

More likely, we have seen a planes leave a trail of white clouds as it flies by. Just the white streak of clouds, not a message.

Did the pilot just have nothing to say that day? I like to think that is probably similar to when I start to write a blog post but nothing comes out. Just ———–.

A few weeks ago I was stuck in traffic and happened to look up to the sky. I saw a plane flying by with a streak of white clouds behind it, but once again there was no romantic message. Just a pilot with writer’s block ————-.

That got me wondering? What is that white trail of clouds? And why don’t we see one every time a plane flies by?

That is what we will tackle on today’s Wonder Why Wednesday…

Why Do White Cloud Trails Form Behind Airplanes?

According to HowStuffWorks.com, these white clouds are called condensation trails or contrails and the reason we can see them is similar to the reason we can see our breath on cold days.

The contrail forms because one of the components of a jet engine’s exhaust is water. The water is usually released as an invisible vapor. However, when the weather is cooler, with winds and humidity in the upper atmosphere, the temperature causes the moister in the jet’s exhaust to condense, thus creating the long white contrails.

This is much the same way as to why we see our breath on cold days. Our breath contains invisible water vapor much like a jet engine. Cold air can hold less moisture than warm air, so in the winter, the cold air hitting your breath causes the moisture to condense into a visible cloud.

So there you have it. The white clouds made by airplanes have more to do with weather than a pilot that has writer’s block.

Five Things We Can Learn From Autocorrect

When I say the word “learning” what comes to mind?

Maybe you think of a colorful classroom full of energetic 1st graders. Or maybe you think of a stuffy college lecture hall with a buttoned up, grey haired professor.

Whatever you have in your mind, I think it is pretty safe to guess that you are picturing some type of school setting. And that makes sense given the fact that most of our learning comes from formal education.

But what happens when we stop our formal education? Do we stop learning?

Not at all. We just learn differently. As we grow older we trade in our learning from chalkboards and homework to learning from board rooms and networks.

That is the great thing about learning, it is not confined to certain times or locations. Learning can happen anytime, anywhere.

Think about that time you were just one minute late for the bus. You probably learned that every minute counts. Or that day you didn’t recognize your wife’s new haircut. You probably learned to be a little more perceptive.

We all can learn some very important lesson from the things we encounter on a daily basis.

With that in mind, I would like to introduce a new segment that I am calling “Five Things We Can Learn From Everyday Objects.”

For the first entry in this series I will take on something we all bump into anytime we type into our phone or computer…Autocorrect.

Five Things We Can Learn From Autocorrect

1. If you go too fast you are bound to mess up

Have you ever tried to type a text message so fast that what comes out is just a jumbled mess? Your fingers are moving so franticly that autocorrect has to work extra hard to decipher what you are writing, and nothing comes out right.

What happens next? You have to delete all the mistakes and type the words all over again. You ended up taking twice as long and typing everything twice because you tried to go too fast.

We make this same mistake in our everyday lives. We try to solve problems by throwing speed at them instead of substance. We franticly finish fast but all we have to show for it is just jumbled junk.

2. You can’t fix errors with errors

Recently I tried to spell the word “viable” in a text message. But my fingers hit the wrong keys and I typed “viakle” instead. Autocorrect sensed that it was the wrong word and changed it to “Viking.”

Autocorrect was doing its job, but it still didn’t make my sentence correct. It simply fixed an error with another error.

Sometimes we think we can solve every problem just by changing it. But just because it was changed doesn’t mean it was made better. Remember when you made a mistake at work and covered it up with a lie. That is like using Viking when you should have used viable.

3. Sometimes you are just too far off

I often spell words so poorly that autocorrect has no suggestion for it. I am so far off that autocorrect is just looking at me like, “that’s not even close to any real words.” In those cases I have to start over and really put some thought into spelling it correctly.

Think about the time your boyfriend got mad at you and you couldn’t figure out why. I bet when you stopped and really put some thought into it you had a much better guess at the correct answer.

4. Sometimes you really are right (even when others disagree)

Autocorrect is great, but it is not perfect. Just the other day I was going to play wiffle ball with some friends. Anytime I would type “wiffle” into a text message autocorrect would change it to “waffle.” Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy waffles just as much as the next guy, but in this case my message had nothing to do with delicious breakfast foods.

In real life, just like in text messages, there are sometimes you will be right, no matter what other people say. It is important to recognize those times and ignore the popular opinion and trust your gut.

5. We can all use help
I am good at typing but with autocorrect I am much better. I am good at math but with a calculator I am much better. No matter how good we are at something, we can all use a little help at one point or another. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

How Rebecca Black’s Friday Went Viral

“It’s Friday, Friday
Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend.”

Those lyrics are from what many have called one of the worst songs ever.

Released in 2011, Friday by Rebecca Black tells the story of a girl who loves Friday. You only have to watch a few seconds of the music video to realize that it isn’t very good. The signing is shoddy, the lyrics are lame and the acting is awful.

But despite all that (or maybe because of it) the song has been seen and sung by millions of people.

At the time of this writing, the music video has over 67 million views on YouTube. That is over 60 million more views than Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone, which Rolling Stone Magazine called the greatest song of all time.

So how did this particular music video become one of the most viral videos of all time? Many songs are bad, what made this one different?

Author Jonah Berger has the answer in his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On.

Berger explains that at any given moment, there are some thoughts that are on the top of your mind. For instance, you may be thinking about the NBA Playoffs or what you will do after work.

There are certain stimuli in the environment that help determine which topics are found at the forefront of your brain.

If you smell good food while walking on the street, you may think about what you want for dinner. If you drive by a mother walking her baby in a stroller it might remind you to call your sister who has a young child.

These are what Berger calls triggers. He says, “Sights, smells, and sounds can trigger related thoughts and ideas, making them more top of mind.”

When I say “peanut butter”, what do you think of?

Probably jelly.

Peanut butter is a trigger for jelly. It almost acts as an advertisement for its pal jelly.

Triggers help explain why Mars bars saw an increase in sales when NASA sent its Pathfinder mission to Mars in 1997.

And just like jelly or Mars bars, Rebecca Black’s song has one very powerful trigger.

If you look at a graph of when people were searching for Ms. Black’s song you will see something very interesting.

Friday StatsImage & stats from YouTube Trends

A jump in viewers happened once every week. Can you guess which day the jump occurred?

That’s right, “It’s Friday, Friday.”

Berger says, that “while the song was equally bad every day of the week, each Friday it received a strong trigger that contributed to its success.”

The day Friday was on the top of mind for many people and that led them to search for the song that shared the same name.

People talk about whatever is on their mind. Triggers help products and ideas jump passed all the clutter to get to the front of your mind.

Despite what you may think about Rebecca Black and her song, you can’t dispute the powerful trigger. And that is why you have probably shared it with someone you know and while I was more likely to post this story on a Friday.

New Post On Attention Land

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I will soon be moving my writing platform from this blog to a site called Attention Land.

I’ve decided that the final change will take place beginning next month. Until then I will post the stories on Blog by Bake, but starting May 1st all the content will be found exclusively at Attention.Land.

Thank you to those of you who have subscribed to get access the Attention Land posts via email. If you have already do so, you should have received an email confirmation that you will need to click to complete the sign up process. Please check your junk mail folder as I have heard that a few of the email confirmations ended up there.

Here’s a link to today’s post which was a Blog by Bake original that I have spiffed up a bit and republished at Attention Land.


Earwax: The Booger Of The Ear

The other day I was having a little bit of stomach pain so I went to the doctor. When the doctor came into the room, she went through the typical medical routine. She took my temperature, blood pressure, and height/weight.

Next she pulled out her little lighted medical magnifying glass thing to look into my ears.

I have gone through that routine dozens of times, and I don’t think I have ever once had a doctor comment on my ears. I sort of just always assumed that they couldn’t actually see anything and that it was more for show. Much like that triangular rubber mallet thing they use to test your reflexes.

So I was caught off guard when the doctor looked into my ears and said, “Oh wow, do your ears hurt?”

“Umm, no,” I responded. “Should they??”

“You must use a lot of cotton swabs, because your right ear is almost completely impacted with earwax,” the doctor said. “You shouldn’t put those things in your ears.”

“Really?” I said. “I thought those things were made to clean out your ears.”

The doctor went on to explain that I should not put cotton swabs into my ears because, although I may clean out some earwax, I am more likely to push globs of earwax deep into my ear canal and clog my ear.

She sounded very convincing, but despite her medical training I figured I knew better. So when I got home I decided to look at the box of cotton swabs to see what they said. I assumed it would say something like, “these are great for ears, don’t listen to your doctor.”

You can imagine my surprise when I read the following:

“CAUTION: Do not enter ear canal. Use only as directed. Entering the ear canal could cause injury. Keep out of reach of children.”

Who knew??

I always just assumed earwax was like the booger of the ears and that you should clean it out daily much like you would use a tissue to clean out a “bat in the cave.”

I’d built cleaning out my ears into my morning routine, right there along with putting on deodorant, brushing my teeth and wondering if it is okay to wear the same pair of unwashed jeans for the fifth day in a row.

All this got me wondering, if earwax is not the booger of the ear what is it?

That’s what I’ll cover in today’s Wonder Why Wednesday…

According to Medical News Today, earwax, also known as cerumen, is “a yellowish waxy material that is produced by the sebaceous gland in the ear canal inside the ear.” Made up of mainly of shed layers of skin, earwax lubricates and protects the ear canal by repelling water, trapping dirt and preventing insects, fungi and bacteria from harming the eardrum.

MNT goes on to say that earwax even has antibacterial properties and without earwax, the ear canal would become very dry, waterlogged and infected.

Medical News Today backs up my doctors claim that cotton swabs simply push earwax deep into the ear. The website says that the majority of earwax does not need to be cleaned out at all because it simply falls out on its own.

So there we have it. Not only is earwax nothing like the booger of the ear, it is actually used to protect the ear and keep it healthy. And you don’t have to worry about cleaning it because the excess earwax simply falls out when it is no longer needed.

I don’t know about you, but that is equal parts interesting and disgusting. I am glad that earwax is keeping my ear healthy, but I am a little grossed out that now I know my house is littered with old earwax that has been falling out of my ear over all these years.

Now the next thing I am wondering is…what do I do with a giant box of unused cotton swabs??

I guess I could paint some red and some blue and challenge people to tiny American Gladiator fights.

The Difference Between Writing & Golf (for me)

I like to write.

But I will let you in on a little secret…I don’t always like to write. In fact, sometimes I hate to write.

It is actually pretty simple. I like writing when I write well. I hate writing when I write poorly.

When I sit down to write, I want the result to be great. I feel I know the steps to make it great. But I don’t always know if words will end up great or if they will end up awful. I may have a decent idea in mind, but when it comes time to put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard), I can’t guarantee I will be pleased with the result.

If I recognize that there is a decent chance the writing will be bad, why is worth it to me to sit down and try for something great?

I will answer that question with the sport of golf…

When I step up to a golf tee, I want my shot to be great. I feel I know the steps to make it great. But I don’t always know if my shot will end up great or if it will end up awful.

Because of that, I don’t play golf.

More often than not my time on the golf course ends up awful. I am horrible at golf.I know that I would improve with golf lessons from a professional and hours spent on a driving range. But I will never be successful at golf because I don’t care enough about it to be bad. I don’t like being bad at golf, so I choose not to play. I don’t want (or need) to be great at golf enough to suffer through the bad to become good.

Back to writing…

There are many times that I won’t write a masterpiece, just like there are many times that I will miss a putt. But, unlike golf, I seem to care about writing enough to risk having a bad outcome.

Having a good writing day is enough to keep me going, despite all the days the words just don’t come out brilliantly.

It is not ground breaking news that we do not like to do things poorly. But the things that we will do poorly enough times to eventually get to the good times are the things that we will make us the most successful.

Each time I write, I feel that eventually I will come up with something that people will enjoy. It may not be this post and it may not be my next post. But it will happen at some point because I care enough to stick it out and get through the awful to find something good.

This allows me to suffer through all those bad days of writing (just not the bad days of golf).

Did You Know…

Did you know…

A ball of glass will bounce higher than a ball of rubber.

The average human will shed 40 pounds of skin during their life.

A Rubik’s Cube can make 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 different combinations.

Flamingos turn pink from eating shrimp.

Coca-Cola started out as a headache medicine.

Fish cough.

Neil Armstrong went through U.S. customs in Honolulu, Hawaii, on the way back from the moon.

The largest cheesecake ever made weighed 6,900 pounds.

The first typewriter was called the “literary piano.”

Dolphins sleep with one eye open.

You can’t talk & inhale through your nose at the same time.

The longest hopscotch game ever, measured 5,506 m (18,064 ft 3 in).

When the inventor of the Frisbee died, he had his ashes molded into frisbees.

A full moon is 9 times greater than a half moon.

Pope John Paul II was named an honorary Harlem Globetrotter.

The first penny had the motto “Mind your business.”

Thankful For Blog By Bake

As I mentioned on Monday, I am converting my writing platform to a new site called Attention Land.

Although I know it is the right decision since it will allow me to utilize better website tools to help broaden my audience, it was still a tough choice to make. Part of me felt like I was abandoning Blog by Bake. It felt like I was kicking the site to the curb as if I were some teenage girl who dumps her average Joe boyfriend when she gets asked to prom by the star quarterback.

But I don’t want it to seem like that at all. To stick with the breakup theme, it’s not you, it’s me. I think it is just time we see other people.

Okay, so maybe those lame breakup excuses weren’t really a better explanation. Either way, I am still very thankful for Blog By Bake. And I don’t mean to say that in some weird third person type of way like when former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell said he would like to thank his hands for being so great.

What I am trying to say is that I am thankful for everything the Blog By Bake platform has done for me this year. I am thankful for the 200+ posts that have seen me grow as a writer. I am thankful that the site helped me launch a great Kickstarter project and release a children’s book. I am thankful for all this and much more.

I am still a little unsure of what will happen to this blog. I won’t be updating it daily starting in a week or two, but I might just keep it around and post some infrequent thoughts, rhymes or observations. Maybe just a way to thank the people who have been around since the beginning. Maybe it will be my way of saying I think we shouldn’t go out anymore but I hope we remain friends. I guess you could say that I love Blog By Bake, I am just not in love with it.

Sorry I just had to throw in a couple more bad break up excuses.

Where Did The Easter Bunny Come From?

Last I checked there aren’t any mentions of the Easter bunny in the Bible.

In fact, I couldn’t even find anything that specifically mentions bunnies in the story of Noah’s Ark.

So why is a bunny so closely associated with this religious holiday? That is what we’ll cover on today’s Wonder Why Wednesday…

To answer the question of what a bunny has to do with Easter, I turn to the History Channel. The smart folks at the History Channel created a very cool video that explains where the bunny came from and many other Easter facts including:

  • How you might know the Easter Fox rather than the Easter Bunny if you grew up in Germany
  • How a religious ban helped make eggs popular at Easter
  • Who is the man behind jeweled Easter eggs
  • That over 90 million chocolate bunnies & 16 billion jelly beans are produced for Easter