No, really, how DO you avoid huge ships?
February 27, 2015 3:57 AM   Subscribe

The Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year (previously on Metafilter) has revealed its 2015 shortlist. posted by Ziggy500 (46 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'd read any of those; in fact, there are a couple I'm tempted to order.

I think for a book to really belong in this shortlist, the content of the book needs to be as odd as the title, and none of this year's shortlist (the last one excepted) really fit that requirement.
posted by pipeski at 4:20 AM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


The 2015 set are all distressingly reasonable. I do feel that any book dealing with ecology or zoology has a bit of a head start.

It's worth noting that for some unthinkable reason the Guardian left out Advanced Pavement Research: Selected, Peer Reviewed Papers from the 3rd International Conference on Concrete Pavements Design, Construction, and Rehabilitation, December 2-3, 2013, Shanghai, China.

The Bookseller has them all here.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 4:41 AM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


The winner from 2000: Babylonian Liver Omens.
posted by Bee'sWing at 5:11 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Based on the post from yesterday, the answer to the question "where do camel(oid)s belong?" is "not Arizona."
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:19 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


To address the actual question in the title AIS which is required on all commercial vessels. Basically it broadcasts every boats speed and direction and a receiver will sound an alarm if you and the ship will come close.
posted by sammyo at 5:24 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yes, a very weak year. I'm sure there must be much better candidates out there.

Indeed this list, again with the possible exception of the last one which seems the clear front runner, leads me to fear that the increased attention this competition has gotten in recent years has unfortunately led to it being deliberately targeted by perfectly ordinary books with deliberately quirky titles as another marketing opportunity.
posted by Naberius at 5:34 AM on February 27, 2015


I really like Strangers Have the Best Candy. It's a great title, and definitely makes me want to pick it up and give it a look. Madwoman in the Volvo isn't bad, either.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:40 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this is a pretty weak year.

Nature's Nether Regions is just an attempt to be cutesy with a very slightly taboo topic.

The Madwoman in the Volvo doesn't sound all that different from half the titles of beach read lit.

Strangers Have the Best Candy is a phrase I hear/say all the time, so it doesn't seem weird or bizarre to me at all.

Where Do Camels Belong is getting a bit better, it's certainly an odd and evocative choice of words.

The Ugly Wife is a Treasure at Home seems to be an actual stock Chinese saying. I guess it sounds a bit odd out of its context, but it'd be a bit like giving the award to a book called "A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss" translated into Czech or something.

Divorcing a Real Witch is probably the best of the bunch, giving the kind of "... Wait, this is a common enough problem to write a book about?" frisson that some of the previous winners have had.
posted by kyrademon at 6:07 AM on February 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


Do people not generally refer to the genital region as "The Netherlands"?
posted by Artw at 6:13 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


"... Wait, this is a common enough problem to write a book about?"

Nailed it. A truly odd title can't just be quirky; it has to briefly make me wonder if I've fallen into an alternate universe.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:27 AM on February 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


One of the finalists from last year was particularly good, How to Pray When You're Pissed at God.
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:28 AM on February 27, 2015


Korea: The War Before Vietnam has always been a favorite.
posted by jonmc at 6:31 AM on February 27, 2015


One of the finalists from last year was particularly good, How to Pray When You're Pissed at God.

I found that one strangely moving!

While I generally enjoy the Diagram Prize shortlists, I agree that other years have been better. I like some of the titles in this compilation. 'Eating people is wrong' is a good one, as is the worrying 'Images you should not masturbate to'.
posted by Ziggy500 at 6:31 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


No, really, how DO you avoid huge ships?

Shallow Waters.

The exciting new sequel, out April 1, 2014.
posted by eriko at 6:32 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Shallow Waters.

Very true, just to thread hijack, I was on a little sailboat one day when a cruise ship was leaving port. I was just a few feet outside a green buoy and could have easily hit the ship with a baseball. It's spooky, like a city block floating out to sea. But I knew the ship was not crossing that line on the water.
posted by sammyo at 6:53 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


To address the actual question in the title AIS which is required on all commercial vessels. Basically it broadcasts every boats speed and direction and a receiver will sound an alarm if you and the ship will come close.

That's how it's supposed to work and how it used to work. Not so much anymore (pdf warning). And ask me how I know....
posted by digitalprimate at 6:55 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


For me, "Strangers Have the Best Candy" will always be this comic PSA by JP Inc.
posted by Alizaria at 7:15 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Advanced Pavement Research: Selected, Peer Reviewed Papers from the 3rd International Conference on Concrete Pavements Design, Construction, and Rehabilitation, December 2-3, 2013, Shanghai, China.
I am very disappointed to discover from the subtitle that this conference was not devoted to subjects like parsing the lyrics of "Conduit for Sale," assessing the band's claim that "Haircut" was really about the possibility of renewed conflict on the Korean peninsula, or the implications of Stephen Malkmus's Twitter feed.
posted by Sonny Jim at 7:17 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


The huge ship thing is way more interesting than you think.

There is, in fact, a well known problem (among mariners) with amateur boaters running smack into huge ships at sea. This is cause caused by a strange confluence of four perceptual phenomena which work together to lure amateur sailors into danger.

First perceptual phenomenon: lack of navigational context. When you're on the water, it's often hard to tell exactly what direction your going in (which is why boats designed to go any distance always have a compass handy). If you're not used to environment you can often find yourself making very radical changes of direction [heading] without noticing. In order to avoid this happening, boaters often instinctively start to use distant landmarks (like a headland, say, or a tower) as an indicator of direction. If you keep that thing three quarters the way to your right (we say a 'constant bearing'), then you 'know' you're going in a straight line. Now, this bad habit causes problems in itself, but that's an issue for another day... it causes very extreme problems when you combine it with huge ships.

Second perceptual phenomenon: big things look still. Huge ships, being huge, don't move very quickly in proportion to their size. Moreover, they're so big that people unconsciously treat them like other huge things, such as buildings, that never move. Taken together, there is an illusion that huge ships are still in the water (like a headland, say, or a tower). But this is completely wrong. A big container ship or tanker might be clipping along at 25 knots (~30 mph, 46 kph), which is really fast when your little sailing boat might be going at four or five knots. Naval ships will often go even faster: an aircraft carrier might be going at something getting close to highway speed. That movement, imperceptible at a distance, is really freaking fast when it's roaring unstoppably up to you, unable to slow or maneuver.

The perceived 'stillness' of big ships means that boaters often, completely unconsciously, use them as fixed points for navigation. Keep that ship at a constant bearing, and you're going in a nice, straight line. This is a fatal error.

Third perceptual phenomenon: constant bearing == collision course. As it happens, one of the ways you can tell if you're on a collision course with another ship is that it stays at a constant bearing. If it's moving 'left' or 'right', from your point of view, you're not going to hit it. If it's staying still, and just getting bigger, you need to figure out how to not die.

So these boaters think that they're sailing in a straight line, but they're actually, unknowingly, setting a collision course with the huge ship by keeping it at a constant bearing. It sounds crazy, if you've never seen it happen, but it's actually a really seductive error: stupidly easy to make.

Fourth (and final) perceptual phenomenon: "looming". As everybody knows, things get bigger when you move towards them. But this doesn't happen at a consistent rate. Things get bigger slowly, and a little less slowly, and then when you get close enough they 'loom' and get bigger really quickly. When you don't know the size of something, a thing that's big, far away, and coming towards you quickly can easily be mistaken for a thing that's small, close, and not coming towards you. Boaters who collide with huge ships often have no idea that the ship is coming towards them until it's dangerously close and suddenly looms above them like the Oil Tanker of Doom.

Taken together, these four perceptual tricks can lure an unsuspecting boater to their death. As the old wisdom goes, the sea is treacherous, dangerous and seductive. Some of these dangers are timeless and ancient. Some of them, like the problem of fast big ships, are fascinating new additions to the siren's subtle arsenal.
posted by Dreadnought at 7:40 AM on February 27, 2015 [403 favorites]


The huge ship thing is way more interesting than you think.
posted by Dreadnought at 10:40 AM on February 27

I can only say that I love this. And MetaFilter. And user names in general.


Taken together, these four perceptual tricks can lure an unsuspecting boater to their death.

You can say the same thing about camels, actually.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:49 AM on February 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


I really should know better than to click through to links like that. Where Do Camels Belong has been added to my already way-too-long "to read" list.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:50 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure all book title contests have already been won by "How to Good-bye Depression: If You Constrict Anus 100 Times Everyday. Malarkey? or Effective Way?". All future contests are pre-won by this book, and all contests prior to the publication date were retroactively re-awarded as well.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:15 AM on February 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


these four perceptual tricks can lure an unsuspecting boater to their death.

This is the best Buzzfeed-style line around.

Also flagged as fantastic.
posted by jeather at 8:18 AM on February 27, 2015 [19 favorites]


I would totally subscribe to Dreadnought-filter.
posted by kiltedtaco at 8:52 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


The number of Witches (and other Pagans) in Western countries has been growing a lot in recent years though not as much as some people think/as during the 90s.
posted by overglow at 10:30 AM on February 27, 2015


If Where Do Camels Belong had been Where Do Llamas Belong, it would've been a shoo-in.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:59 AM on February 27, 2015


How to Poo on a Date

If you poo on your date they probably won't go out with you again.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:08 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


That is why you need the book!
posted by Artw at 11:15 AM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is where I get to say about how that the Witch divorce book is written by my partner (and MeFi's own) medea42, right?
posted by jamuraa at 8:29 AM on February 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


Taken together, these four perceptual tricks can lure an unsuspecting boater to their death.

You can say the same thing about camels, actually.


Right? Fuckin' camels, always luring unsuspecting boaters to their deaths.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:41 AM on February 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


There is, in fact, a well known problem (among mariners) with amateur boaters running smack into huge ships at sea.

Ok, how do you avoid this? Use a compass and always use it for your bearings?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:36 PM on February 28, 2015


You have to challenge the fuckers, make them back down. That way they respect you.
posted by Artw at 2:37 PM on February 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Sys Rq: "Right? Fuckin' camels, always luring unsuspecting boaters to their deaths."

Its not for nothing that they call camel the ship of the desert. I am not sure what is the boat of the desert.... a goat?
posted by TheLittlePrince at 7:47 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Excellent comment from Dreadnought. When 'How to Avoid Huge Ships' first made the list, I bought a copy as a joke gifts for my dad, who sails a lot. I read it before I gave it away and it's a really interesting book. The author writes about the "dance of death" which is basically that thing when you and another pedestrian try to avoid each other but end up colliding...but between a huge ship and a small boat. I think about this on a weekly basis riding my bike in the city. This John McPhee article from the New Yorker is also awesome (as is all McPhee writing) and discusses some of the hazards that occur when river barges encounter small pleasure craft.
posted by Drab_Parts at 5:09 AM on March 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Right? Fuckin' camels, always luring unsuspecting boaters to their deaths.

Hey, go down the checklist -- camels lack all navigational context, they often give the illusion of being still when they are ready to spit the fuck at you, when you are around camels, figuring out how not to die is important, and camels loom and get bigger really quickly.

We can take away from this that camels should not be used for navigation, you should avoid them at sea, and, you know, just take care. Where do camels belong? Not too close to me, thank you.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:58 AM on March 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


There was also a spate of gigantic color changing mutant camel attacks in the 80s.
posted by Artw at 7:21 AM on March 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


that thing when you and another pedestrian try to avoid each other but end up colliding.

I was an usher in a concert hall that had some floor-to-ceiling mirrors outside the auditorium. People walk around during intermission, and they were not always attentive. They often walked into the mirrors, but always first stepped sideways to avoid colliding with their reflections. But the reflections stepped sideways too...
posted by hexatron at 8:09 AM on March 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


constant bearing == collision course

This is not true in all cases by any means, as you can tell by plotting it out on graph paper (I just did).

Start with two ships separated by a good distance, A moving at speed S and B moving at 2S (or whatever). If A keeps B off the starboard bow at right angles to its (A's) direction of travel, it will never get hit by B so long as B moves in a straight line, as big ships are likely to do.
posted by Sportswriters at 3:33 PM on March 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


"How to Poo on a Date"

Presumably you start out with something larger, like a watermelon, and then learn to refine your aim.

And I credit travelling past an oil tanker in a tiny motorboat at about the age of seven with the phobia of Very Large Things that I had when I was younger (one of the large and varied array of phobias I crashed into adolescence with. I collected phobias like even more priggish children collect stamps.)
posted by Grangousier at 3:53 PM on March 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is not true in all cases by any means

Well spotted!

I was simplifying, of course, for readability (although I took care to specify "and just getting bigger" for this exact reason).

The actual condition I was talking about is called CBDR: "constant bearing, decreasing range". There are a number of exceptions, but they're all very specific cases:

1. If two ships are sailing a parallel track at the same speed, they will maintain a constant bearing without a change in range. In practice this only happens by coordination.
2. A ship dead ahead or dead astern on the same course might be going faster or slower than you, respectively, and not exhibit DR, but those cases are obvious because they only occur on those two bearings.
3. The other vessel might be on a non-intersecting course to your own, and also going at the exact right speed to hold their relative bearing. If they're astern, this speed is exactly the same as your speed or slower (I think -- I just can't remember this well), if they're ahead, this speed is greater than your speed by some very specific amount depending on the bearing. Such cases are a) very rare and b) usually easy to spot. If it isn't obvious that the course is non-intersecting (it's usually obvious) you have to monitor and communicate until you're sure the range is increasing.

Anyway, thanks for putting forward this very smart clarification to my admittedly hastily-written comment. It's good to see somebody is double-checking my figures!
posted by Dreadnought at 7:24 PM on March 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Come clean, Dread - you wrote that book yourself, didn't you?
posted by Segundus at 7:13 AM on March 3, 2015


This is not true in all cases by any means, as you can tell by plotting it out on graph paper (I just did).

Nobody likes a nitpicker. (just kidding). Related is the fact that if you are flying and you see another aircraft whose position remains fixed relative to, say, the frame of your windscreen AND is getting larger you are on a collision course. It is also a basic technique for evaluating an approach to landing, a point on the ground will appear fixed on your windscreen and if on a stabilized approach that is where you are going to land, if it is sliding up your going to undershoot, down overshoot. Its really quite compelling the first time you figure it out and see it.

Rather than think about exceptions the prudent boater would adjust their course so that the ship would appear to move relative to bearing.
posted by Pembquist at 8:45 AM on March 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


+nitpicking
That doesn't guarantee anything either. Details left as an exercise for the reader
-nitpicking
posted by Sportswriters at 11:18 AM on March 3, 2015


The bad-perception-of-big-things thing results in many tired tourists here in DC. Folks stand on the Capitol steps, say, and think they'll just stroll down to the Lincoln Memorial. But they don't realize that it's two miles away, since everything is so big and there aren't many normal-sized landmarks along the way.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:27 AM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


You can say the same thing about camels, actually.
I don't understand, I have never had this problem with camels.
posted by boilermonster at 9:32 PM on March 14, 2015


Thanks to Dreadnought, I've revised my opinion of the PT 109 incident.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:06 PM on March 18, 2015


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