How Long Things Take

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.

The Central Park Crooner

Word by word

The Amazing Moth Girl!

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