This one isn’t related to reading. It is related to music. Yesterday, I was listening to Bing Crosby on the way home. Bing Crosby and Bob Hope were doing a duet of “If I Knew You Were Coming I’d’ve Baked A Cake”. This was back in the day when there was some improvisation that went along with the singing. I’ve heard the song a dozen times, and there is always one line that makes me laugh–out loud. This was the first time I was on the Metro home, however. The line is:
Bob: “If you’d knew I was coming you’d have had a meal”
Bing: “Seven course”
Bob: “Mostly horse”
At that point I laughed and pretty loudly too. I think I startled the people who were sitting around me.
I was reading this book shortly after getting back from vacation in November. There is a lot of funny stuff in this book, but one passage in particular made me burst out laughing, mainly due to the nature of the subject. I received a few strange glances, laughing so hard at something contained within a physicists autobiography. Here’s the passage:
I often liked to play tricks on people when I was at MIT. One time, in mechanical drawing class, some joker picked up a French curve (a piece of plastic for drawing smooth curves–a curly, funny-looking thing) and said, “I wonder if the curves on this thing have some special formula?”
I thought for a moment and said, “Sure they do. The curves are very special curves. Lemme show ya,” and I picked up the French curve and began to turn it slowly. “The French curve is made so that at the lowest point on each curve, no matter how you turn it, the tangent is horizontal.”
All the guys in the class were holding their French curve up at different angles, holding their pencil up to it at the lowest point and laying it along, and discovering that, sure enough, the tangent is horizontal. They were all excited by this “discovery”–even though they had already “learned” that the derivative (tangent) of the minimum (lowest point) of any curve is zero (horizontal). They didn’t put two and two together. They didn’t even know what they “knew.”
From “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” by Richard P. Feynman.
People collect different things. I collect books, for instance, while other people collect butterflies. One amusing thing that I have started to collect are snippets from books that I happen to be on the Metro to or from work, and which happen to be funny enough to make my laugh outloud.
This may not seem earth-shattering, and it’s not. What amuses me about it is that I can’t help from laughing. There I am, surrounded by the rush hour crowds on the train, nose buried in a book and suddenly I am laughing. Uproariously. I imagine it must make for an amusing sight to the other commuters.
At any event, whenever I come across one of these passages that make me laugh outloud on the metro, I plan to include a quote from the passage in a blog entry. All entries will be prefaced with “Laughing Outloud:” or you can find them by clicking on the Laughing Outloud on the Metro link on my reading list website.