A blog for odd things and odd thoughts.

Memory Tricks

It’s interesting how memory works and the way we observe things. It’s particularly interesting how memory fails to work, and we don’t notice it.

One day, I was driving to a party on a Friday night. (For the Sydney locals, I was about to turn right onto Parramatta Road, opposite Sydney Uni.) It was a warm night, and my windows were down. Suddenly, there was a loud bang! I turned and looked left up Parramatta road, and floating high over the centre of it, in the distance, was a giant ball of flame. It quickly faded.

The driver in the car next to me was excited! He called out to me and wondered if we’d be in the news, because we saw a U.F.O! I laughed.

At the party, I mentioned it up, and a few people there had seen it. I listened with interest at the descriptions. One said they had seen something fire out of the explosion and float to the ground, like an ejector seat. Others had similar embellishments. I remained skeptical that it was any more than a jet dumping fuel or whatever it is they do.

The next day I scanned the paper and confirmed my suspicions. An Air Force jet had been doing a display for some dignitary, and had fired their after-burner or somesuch. There was no damage or anything, but a few complaints about the noise.

I was smug about my skepticism, and my care in not letting the observed facts get too embellished, until the following week when I was at exactly the same intersection, in exactly the same position at the lights, and I looked to the left and found I could not see up Parramatta road from that position. The fireball could not have been centered above it! My memory had played just as many tricks as everyone else.

I fear some of the older stories I’ve been telling suffer from being filtered through the same memory.

Was it really possible to hit all three ALT, CTRL and SHIFT at the same time on the Rational 1000? Aristotle’s observation means it wasn’t necessary for all three buttons to be pushed at the same time for the reboot story to make sense. Perhaps my memory backfilled this in to make the reboot story more plausible to me.

The number of seconds in 18 hours is close to 216. So a signed integer that overflowed after counting for 36 hours worth of seconds would reside in a 17-bit field. That makes the stability test story sound fishy!

What about the shared one-way street/bus lane story? Could it really have been a two-lane bus-lane? Sounds more plausible, but I remember seeing a car in front of me as I drove into the side-road. So, it must have been a car-lane. Just a moment – my clear mental image of a car in front of me has both of us on the left-hand side of the road. But in Sweden they drive on the right… Maybe I shouldn’t give this memory too much credence.

In the end, I let the posts stand; the stories are more interesting that way.


  1. Sounds to me a bit like you’re just getting old(er)

  2. I am still looking through the WordPress help files for advice on what you should do when your sworn mortal enemy finds your blog and starts taking pot-shots at you.

    Next time, Cassie! I’ll get you next time!

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Web Mentions

  1. OddThinking » Dag För Dag