Microwaved mugs and multiple mindsets

Wednesday 28 January 2004This is over 19 years old. Be careful.

I read once of a person who would microwave their coffee for some unusual amount of time, like 48 seconds. I think it was a brain teaser: why would the person do this?

The answer was that they had timed the spinning of the carousel in the microwave, and knew that if they zapped it for 48 seconds, the mug would make some number of whole revolutions, and end up with the handle pointing towards them, making it easier for them to pick the mug up again.

This stuck with me, because it is exactly the sort of nerdly optimization that I would make. In fact, I’ve had discussions over this sort of thing in the kitchen at work. One time, a co-worker and I had an gleeful conversation about how precisely to manipulate the cup-at-a-time coffee machine to get the cup of coffee made in the shortest time possible, including adding sugar.

Then again, once I was standing in a work kitchen with a woman I knew only by sight as being from the accounting group. Making conversation, I told her the story of the precisely timed mug nuking, and she said, “That is a sad man”.

Different strokes for different folks, I guess.


You microwave at weird amounts of time because that is the exact time it takes to get the thing hot. I do a frozen bagel (a big one like Finagle, not a Lender's -- who eats that shit anyway?) on 32 seconds. 30 is too short; 35, too long. Most stuff I microwave, however, other than a bagel, seems to take 35 seconds.
While some people do use unusual times because they have carefully calibrated senses of temperature, the person in the story did it for a different, geekier reason, which is the whole point!

I thought it was a great story. Of course, when it comes to microwave times, a lot of people have calculated as Sue describes -- my freshman year roommate always nuked popcorn for 3 minutes and some particular number of seconds, which equated to precisely one nanosecond prior to burning. But timing the orbit of the handle of the coffee mug -- that's exactly the geeky sort of optimization I can really appreciate.

I'm trying to think of different optimization rituals that I do, but I can't think of any that don't involve the way I use computers. Hum.

Great story, and an optimisation I'm impressed with (I also do the optimal coffee machine usage thing), but microwaving coffee? Yuck :-(
Cup full = 2:15
Cup less than full = 2:10

Why do those 5 seconds make a difference? Dunno.
My parent's microwave works on the 7 second per turn cycle. The geeky thing wasn't to put in weird times, but to know where on the rotating platform to place to mug so that the coffee ends up in the front with the handle facing towards the door.

Then, a few years ago, I bought the sequel to that microwave for myself. And Dangnabbit if the engineers had redesigned the microwave for 10second rotations to remove the entire problem.

Those engineers also scared me at first because they also randomly choose the direction of the rotation. I thought it was broken when the 3rd thing I nuked went the other way round....
Right, Jim. My feelings exactly. The guy in the story is still a sad man, geek or not.

There is something seriously wrong about microwaved coffee. Very, very, very wrong.

Actually, cold coffee isn't that bad. The problem is that you need to KNOW that the coffee will be cold. Expecting hot coffee and being surprised by cold stuff is also very wrong ;-)
When my husband and I moved into our house a year ago, the living room was much smaller that our previous apartment, so we had no place for my stereo. At the time the CD player didn't work, so the whole stereo served no purpose other than needing to be powered on to work the speakers for the TV.

As there was no place to put it, we hid it behind the TV stand, and there was a small crack behind it. Just enough for us to put a small mirror leaning against a wall pointing diagonal towards the TV stand, so we could use the remote control to power it on with no problems.

People thought we just had the mirror there for decoration!
But ya know, we MADE room for the coffeemaker. :-)
One lazy optimization I know for nuking soup in the office microwave is 3-3-3. Since the touchpad is rather insensitive, it's easier to pound the 3 button repeatedly for 3:33 than to enter 3:30 or 3:40.
My gosh...I've actually done this exact thing with cups of coffee in my microwave. I didn't think it was geeky; I was being lazy. Surely this isn't that uncommon of a behavior ;)

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