Some Funny (Pointless?) Stories

The Hot Resistor Story

When I was in 7th grade, a friend of mine and I built a capacitance relay for the science fair. This is a circuit to which a foil plate is attached. When someone brings their hand near the plate, the circuit activates a light. This was a one vacuum tube circuit built on wooden board. The tube required 25 volts for the filament. To save money, this voltage was derived from the 120 volt line voltage using a 25 watt resistor instead of a transformer. The resistor became very hot when the circuit was in operation.

The morning before the science fair, I was alone in the science fair display room with two female classmates. I was very shy and didn't speak to girls even if they spoke to me first. Anyway, I noticed that one of the girls had leaned against the table and her posterior was in direct contact with the hot resistor. Being shy, I couldn't bring myself to say, "Lady, your rump's on fire." So I did what any respectable twelve year old would do: I looked away. Shortly after that, the girl jumped from the table. She had a small hole in her dress.

The Funny Hat

Sue Ellen and I spent part of our summer 1989 vacation at Disney World where we stayed onsite at the Contemporary Resort Hotel. The first day there, we went to the Magic Kingdom where I saw a man wearing a Figment hat (see the picture of me on my home page modeling a Figment hat). Figment is a creature made up of parts of other creatures and represents imagination in one of the Epco Center rides. I fell in love with the hat and purchased one the next day. I wore it everytime we went out of the hotel.

One afternoon, we returned to the hotel after enjoying a morning in the park. To our surprise, our key would not unlock our hotel room. I inquired at the main desk and found that prepayment was required for the vacation package I had purchased. Due to an error by a new desk clerk, payment was not requested when we checked in. When the error was later detected, the hotel staff panicked and locked us out of our room so that they would be sure to get their money. I returned to my room with the desk clerk to retrieve some travelers checks, and then we went to the front desk where I settled the account.

I then asked to speak to the manager. She was summoned, and I complained about the unprofessional treatment by the staff including locking us out of our room and making an unauthorized credit card debit in an attempt to make up for their error. The manager was not apologetic and even had a funny look on her face while we discussed the situation. It was only after I was in the elevator on the way back to my room that I remembered I was still wearing my Figment hat. I couldn't really blame the manager for having a funny look on her face because it is indeed hard to take someone seriously who is yelling at you when he's wearing such a funny hat.

(To Disney's credit, they did apologize and provide free tickets when I complained to the home office.)

A Trip to the Gun Show

My wife worked in a research lab at a university. The director of the lab was Dr. C. One day while I was in the lab visiting my wife, the dean of engineering, Dr. T, telephoned for Dr. C. A graduate student, who had excellent English language skills for a foreign graduate student, answered the phone. We could tell from hearing just one side of the conversation that Dr. T was calling to speak with Dr. C.

"Dr. C isn't here now," said the graduate student. "He took his wife to the gun show in Roanoke." I was a little puzzled because Dr. C didn't strike me as the gun show type, and my wife had started laughing. She explained that there'd been a simple misunderstanding. Dr. C had recently developed a taste for sushi, so he had taken his wife to the Shogun restaurant in Roanoke. The situation provided a good laugh and illustrated how easily the nuances of a language can escape a non-native speaker.


When I was a teenager, I worked for a summer at Clemson University as a lab assistant. Part of my job was to build the apparatus for growing a continuous culture of yeast. Once the apparatus was built and loaded nutrient agar, it had to be sterilized using an autoclave. Unfortunately, the thermostat of the autoclave in the lab didn't work. So, I had to manually regulate the temperature by turning the autoclave on and off periodically with the goal of keeping the pressure in a certain range. If I forgot, the steam safety valve would blow.

I dubbed this device a "manual-clave."

Youth In Asia

This story actually happened here at Virginia Tech; however, I may have colored it a bit in the retelling.

A political science prof asked his class to write a term paper. Several weeks into the semester, they were required to give him the topic they had selected for his approval. One student sent the prof e-mail saying she wanted to write about "youth in asia". The prof thought this topic was too broad, so he sent her a reply asking for more detail. Was she going to write about how the youth in asia were involved in the politics of their respective countries or did she have some other topic in mind?

The reply back to the prof from the student was that she just didn't feel it was proper for one person to take the life of another person even if the person were terribly ill.

Here's a one-liner I contributed to rec.humor.funny.
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