How Long Things Take

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A wonderful little ditty was passed along to me via email this morning, (just when I was wondering what I was going to put in my blog).
It comes from a nature watchers mailing list. Seems this guy was cleaning out his basement and stumbled upon a book he’d forgotten. It’s a collection of 5000 entries, each one citing how long a certain process takes. Here are the examples that were in my email: (s=seconds, m=minutes, h=hours, d=days w=weeks y=years)

(0.003s) – a housefly’s wings to beat one stroke.
(1s) – the wings of a small hummingbird to beat seventy times.
(2-3s) – the duration of gray squirrel copulation.
(15s) – bees to communicate by dancing.
(20s) – a cloud to recharge after lightning flashes.
(30s) – flying fish to complete a “flight.”
(1m) – the heart of a shrew to beat 1000 times.
(1m) – a blue shark to swim a mile.
(2m) – a giraffe to run a mile.
(3m) – beavers to copulate.
(10m) – a snowflake to form.
(12m) – a bedbug to gorge himself on human blood.
(15m) – intervals between breaths of a hibernating jumping mouse.
(20m) – death by hanging.
(1h) – an adult male to shed 600,000 particles of skin.
(2h) – newly hatched geese to begin following their mothers around.
(6h) – minimum time for a hurricane to form.
(9h) – a tornado to run its course – maximum life span.
(12h) – the male indigo bunting to sing 4320 songs.
(16h) – the ring kingfisher to incubate her eggs at one sitting.
(18h) – daily sleep requirement of the sloth.
(20h) – newly hatched ducklings to exhibit their first emotional response – Fear.
(24h) – grasshoppers to eat 1.5 times their weight in grass – about 0.05 ounce.
(24h) – a pair of house wrens to feed their young 1117 times.
(24h) – to shed 50-80 hairs from the human head.
(36h) – to sprout sunflower seeds.
(3d) – for gravel to be present in young song birds after hatching.

from Durations: The Encyclopedia of How Long Things Take by Sandow, Bamber and Rioux (Avon Books, New York, NY, 1977, 297 pages

As a tribute to every writer who has ever been asked, “How’s the book coming along?” “Got that book finished yet?” “When can I buy a copy?” I thought I’d make a list of my own. Here are a few examples…more to come.

(1s) – for a person to have an ‘idea’ for a book they are sure will be a best seller
(3s) – the reaction time before their friends start laughing at that ‘idea’.

(3w) -to get up the nerve to sit down at a desk and start writing
(3y) – to write a first novel (this time may vary. In the case of Alexander McCall-Smith, author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, a few months. In the case of Pulitzer prize winner Edward P. Jones’ The Known World, 10 years)

(3d) – the time it takes for a first time wirter to crank out their first query letter to pitch their book to an agent.
(5h) – to scour the net for the ‘right’ agent
(5s) – the time it takes a writer to cut and paste query into an email and hit ‘send’
(1s) – the time it takes for writer to say ‘oh crap’ when she notices a spelling error in query letter.
(1s -6months) -time it takes for an agent to reply

(1m -1y) -time it takes for an agent to shop around a manusript
(1s) -time it takes for a publisher to say ‘yes’.

And now it only takes 1 minute for a man to size up a woman to see what foods to feed her in order to ‘hook-up’. (By the way, the kids today use the term hooking up to mean…well, ummm…)

From Ann Marie Michael’s Cooking to Hook Up:

Is she a Party Girl? Make her Very Happy Hour: Bar Food and Screaming Orgasms. Is she an Academic Girl who loves Hemingway? Pack up a picnic of Papa’s Tapa’s: A Moveable Feast. Is she a Gourmet Girl up on the latest trends in cuisine? Serve her the Spanish Surrealist menu, There’s No Taste Like Foam.

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