Coping: With the Return of WoWW

The World of Woo-Woo seems more and more like it comes in waves.  For now, woo-woo is back and running strong….

Let’s start with a report from a reader named Leslie:

I’ve read the woo reports with interest, thinking that the interesting stuff always happens to other people. So color me amazed that I have two woo events to report— in the same week!

I’m the Clerk at my local Post Office. On Saturdays, I open the office and am alone for the first hour of the day. I have a very set routine. As I walk in the lobby doors, I take my badge and my keys out of my purse. They’re clipped together as one unit until I take them apart. I clip my badge to my shirt collar, use the key to open the office door, and then slip the keys in my pocket. I set up everything for the mail’s arrival, do the preliminary computer work, open the safe, and then get the scanner out and ready. The scanner requires that I zap the bar code on the back of my badge.

Last Saturday, I get to the badge scan part… My badge isn’t on my shirt. Check my pocket. Keys, yes, badge, no. Check my purse. Nope. I retrace every step I’ve taken, thinking it fell off. Nada. No sign of it. Retrace again. Retrace a third time. I’m standing beside my desk, cussing about having to get another badge made because my old one was truly the only decent picture I’ve ever had taken for any sort of ID in my entire life and I *know* the new one is going to the typical god-awful thing… and I look up and right there in the middle of a wide expanse of open floor— in plain sight— is my badge. A bright white rectangle on a dingy grey-green linoleum tile floor. I had walked over that space three times, looking right at the floor, and if it had been there before I would have seen it. Actually, I would have stepped on it. Where it had been those times…

And then yesterday (Friday) I’m doing a peach preserves canning marathon. I am an absolute stickler for precision in canning. Process, routine, no shortcuts. (Basically, the kitchen version of flying; you get careless, people can die.) I always put the jars, lids and bands into the canner as sets for sterilizing. No counting involved. Take the jars out the packaging, separate, and plop, plop. Boil all possible forms of bacterial life out them while I cook the preserves.

I get to the last jar in the batch I’m doing, wipe the rim of the jar, and then stick my magnet wand into the canner to retrieve the last lid. But there is no lid. There’s a band, but no lid. The canner is black enamel. The lid is silver on one side, white on the other. The water is crystal clear. It’s not as though the lid can be invisible in that environment. I look again, I stir the magnet wand around. Nothing. It is simply not there. I check all the jars I’ve done, looking to see if one somehow got two lids put on it. No; singles on each just as it should be. So I get a single lid out of my stash, sterilize it, and go on. (Wondering, worrying the whole time about where I screwed up.)

Water bath that batch of preserves, take them out to cool, and plop another set of jars, lids and bands into the boiling water to start the next batch. Same process as before. Out of the packaging, separate, and into the water as complete sets. Boil it all while I cook the peaches. I pull the last jar out of the water, fill it, wipe the rim, take the magnet wand to get the lid for it… and there are two lids there, one band. Where that lid had been for the duration… I have no absolutely idea.

If I didn’t know that this sort of thing happens to other people, I’d be kinda creeped out by it. But since it seems to be rather commonplace–and everything came back to as it should be–it’s just flat out awesome. <bg>

Another one of our readers (John E) pointed me to the website of Rosemary Ellen Guiley who is a writer who has also been tracking this same phenomena

She calls events like this “jottles” and apparently has come up with some additional detail as to how (TF) this kind of thing happens.  Apparently there are disappear in one spot, then reappear in the same place events, or other cases where things disappear at point A and come back at point B.  And other gradations of the effect for time and such.

Reader Ellen had an experience involving a jottle, but hers involved the missing object traveling some distance to return to its owner…and a long time-scale:

I got so revved up on the ban on ebola coverage that I failed to share the Wujo report. Long ago, in my college days I had a PURPLE leather jacket that I just LOVED to bits. It was my favorite article of clothing. I was in college at the time. Wore the jacket every day.

One day, noticed I was COLD, and realized I’d left my beloved jacket in my last class. I almost RAN back to the class to fetch it, only to find it was NOT in the room. I was heartbroken, someone must have made off with it. I sighed, was cold and went home dejected. Told my hubby about the incident and then just shrugged and said ah well that’s how it goes.

MONTHS later, I was cleaning behind my couch and VIOLA! There was the jacket!!! I laughed myself silly, and told dan. I don’t care If I’m crazy, or it transported back because it missed me or what, I’m just happy as heck it made it home. I wore that jacket to shreds and never lost it before this incident or after!

I was in my twenties when this happened, and probably not likely to have had a “senior moment”, I also didn’t drink or toke, so I was a straight arrow. This was my first experience of “lost objects”. Have had a few similar events to the “missing thumb drive” you printed up today. I KNOW when and where I left that jacket, it just made it’s own way home. Pretty amazing. I decided then and there that there are glitches in the matrix and we just need to allow for that and not beat ourselves up about that. I always have two coats available now too! best, e.

What is not clear, in either of these reports if whether the phenomena is caused by a glitch in the perception people have, or whether it’s a case of “trouble with the matrix.  Reader James to the rescue!

I have a long history of experiencing objects disappearing like in the story from Eric that you posted last week. Even when I was a kid I realized that sometimes when I’m really looking for something I won’t be able to ‘see’ it. It’s really the oddest thing. I can look directly at what I’m looking for and it simply doesn’t appear to be there.

I remember when I was about 12 years old standing next to the kitchen table with an assembled large group present and I absolutely could not locate a 2-liter bottle of soda. I finally asked the group where the coke is and someone pointed to it and then suddenly there it was literally right in front of me on the table!

I have noted that this only seems to occur when there’s some clutter or a lot of other objects involved. I firmly believe that this is some type of error in information processing in the brain when trying to sort out all the visual ‘noise’.

It also seems to happen when I’m looking for things that I don’t normally purchase in the grocery store. I’ve gotten to where I just cut to the chase and ask an employee where the item is. It seems that by concentrating on what you want to see that it causes the opposite outcome to manifest. You make the object disappear from your perception instead of standout.

This isn’t to discount some serious cases of WoWW that do occur out there. I sent you one that happened to me personally last year that you posted when I was headed to one of the ‘stans for a deployment (back home safely now). That was a different animal.

To echo what Eric said, it’s damn disconcerting to know this happens because what else are we not seeing that’s right in front of us?

My final note on this topic is some advice: If you suffer from this you should definitely NOT consider a career or hobby as a snake hunter.


Even James’ level-headed approach doesn’t prove the concept.  But, as Sherlock Holmes might have noted, it would be the higher probability at least when objects reappear in the same place.  But how does this explain when a coat shows up far from where it “should” have been?  Or, is that a figmagination…had Ellen simply not worn the jacket that day>

One of these days, I’m sure some reader report will come in that will clarify our thinking on these damn jottles, so when (apparently less so “if”) one happens, please write up a report and send it along.,

I like collecting odd bits of reality like this.  I add ‘em to my super-collection of oddities that I’ve even come up with a name for:


Oh, I should mention that the most regular occurrence of jottles for me, personally, comes in proofreading.  When I read something the first time, it is perfect.  But when I go back later and look, all kinds of errors have appeared!

Hangar Talk: Check Ride Report

I mentioned Friday that I was off to do some serious flying as part of a biennial flight review and I’d attempt to knock off a couple of phases in the FAA’s WINGS program for pilots (and mechanics).

imageAs you can see, if you click on the transcript to the right, there is a heck of a lot more to just jumping in an airplane and going somewhere if you’ve got yourself tracking to be a good pilot,  not just a pilot.

The Federal regs require a pilot take a biennial flight review every two years.  This is because rules change, although slowly, over time.  And the other thing that happens is you get rusty.

As planned, I completed both WINGS Basic phase 1 and WINGS Advanced phase 1, in addition to the biennial flight review.  The hardest part was the instrument proficiency check.

I haven’t gotten around to equipping our old airplane the full suite of instruments required for solid, safe instrument flying conditions.  That would likely cost upwards of $8,000+ to accomplish to my satisfaction.  We’d have to add an instrument approach certified GPS (with wide area augmentation for precision approaches) plus we would need to add a glide slope indicator.  Marker beacon receiver and while we’re at it, an old-style radio direction finder would provide some inflight-entertainment, as well.  It doesn’t stop here…back up attitude indicator and as long as we’re making up money, how about an engine monitor, too?  Are we at $15k yet?  Stormscope then and….and…….

Even without the instruments for instrument flight rules (IFR) flying, both the WINGS program and biennial require some instrument flying…and it is challenging.

My instructor had me do a cross-wind landing at a strange airport I’d never flown into.  Which was fun because it’s on something of a mesa, is high of the approach ends and low in the middle.  Now toss in 7-10 knots of cross winds and….piece of cake.

This was followed by taxiing back and a short field takeoff.  Another set of procedures.  And when I had the airplane up to 3,000 feet, and after some required stalled (power-on and power-off), we were ready for the next batch of flying checklist items.

OK, put on the hood and  give me a heading of 270-degrees.”  The hood is a plastic hat with a huge visor that prevents you from seeing anything but the field of gauges in front of you.

Holding the airplane level wasn’t hard…it was already “trimmed” so it would basically fly itself straight ahead with only light touches on the controls.  There, that wasn’t so bad….

“OK, come around to a heading of 180, “ was the next instruction. 

Lemme see…watch the six critical flight instruments in a scan, begin a 20-degree bank turn, and watch both the vertical speed indicator, attitude display, turn coordinator, heading indicator…Hey!  I remember all this stuff!

When you are trued up on 180, give me a right turn to 360-degrees.

Sure.…easy roll to the right, don’t overshoot the turn coordinator, watch the VSI….say, is that vertigo I’m beginning to feel?  It’s common and why recurrent training on instruments is so important:  You need to believe the instruments, not what those little ear hairs of the inner ear are sending to your brain.  The instruments don’t lie.  Your ears do.

Now, when you get to 360, I want you to close your eyes and give me a heading to 270-degrees with your eyes shut.  When you get to where you think 270 is, I want you to open your eyes and recover from the unusual attitude the airplane will be in by then….”

Piece of cake, I was thinking.  The airplane’s turn coordinator is set up for a two minute turn, so I will just roll into about half of a standard-rate turn and hold it for 50-seconds or so…..

Open your eyes and recover!

As I did so, the instruments were telling me unexpected things.  I’d rolled into the turn too hard, so I’d overshot the 270-degree heading.  But worse, the air speed had climbed up to 140 and the nose was down.   Uncorrected,  this leads to “flying the wings off” an airplane.

But my recovery was “by the book” and II  passed the “recover from unusual attitude under instruments” part..

Now I want you to fly an instrument approach down to minimums at Palestine.”

Ah, things were getting interesting.  OK, confirm the check pilot has cleared the area for other traffic.  Back to 3,000 feet.  Set GPS for the approach…damn!  Don’t have the runway heading extension “feathers” on… no time to me messing with the GPS menu, so I will eyeball the centerline from 6-miles out….

I want 1,500 feet and 80 at three miles to set up a standard rate decent…”

Yeah….got it.

Shit!  How’d I miss the airplane getting 10-degrees off course?  Must have broken my concentration screwing with the GPS.  OK, easy turn back to course….now how does this look on the GPS for heading?  OK, that’ll work…Now to leave 3,000 for 1,500…

Oh-oh…watch the climbing airspeed on decent.  Time for another radio call that we’re on 5-mile final for runway 18.  Now, let me see, carb heat, power back, 10-degrees of flaps…damn, getting off course again…why am I on 170-degrees?  Crosswind from the east, so it shouldn’t hurt too bad….

OK, airspeed down to 80, altimeter coming through 1,500….vertical speed is too fast, trim back a bit for a bit more nose up, touch of power…hell….why are you off course, George, you idiot?  I was screaming at myself.  LINE UP ON THE RUNWAY the little voice in my head was now screaming.

Something else looks off…oh… the VSI was telling me the decent rate is down at 600-feet a minute…but I let that go since the GPS was figuring –593 feet per minute decent rate to touchdown.  OK, stable on approach now…

DECISION ALTITUDE Hood UP!  Land or go round?  (pause)  Find the runway and give me a short field landing…”

Holy smokes!  The runway was in view but a block to the right of where I thought it was…easily made.  The real teaching moment with self involved a tendency to over-correct to the left and a glance at the heading indicator confirmed I was drifting back toward 170-degrees.  That and turn on runway extension lines well ahead of needing them when I could still mess with the GPS menu…

The rest of it was simple:  The power-off landing on a different runway to a precision point, and so many other things, it’s still a blur.

At the end of the day,  the Biennial flight review was bagged  – good for two years – and some real skill-building. 

Even though Elaine and I have put few hours in the logbook this year (having taken the car on our summer writing adventure this year) it’s comforting (and confidence-building) to go up and do a serious wring-out to make sure you’re still sharp.

Airplanes are like women:  They’re reasonably forgiving, but only to a point.  Serious flying like this two-hour session of everything in the book reminds us of where that point is in airplanes.  It’s the “forgiveness threshold” concept,

And, come to think of it, the writing of the checks for the plane, hangar, maintenance, fuel, insurance, equipment upgrades, chart updates and check rides…. that reminds us about the other forgiveness threshold, too.

Write when you break-even