Metatalktail Hour: Noticing Stuff September 8, 2018 4:54 PM   Subscribe

Good Saturday evening, MetaFilter! This week, aniola wants to know, "What things do you particularly notice, because of your work or hobbies? Is there something new you notice a lot? (Like landscape architects w/ landscaping, home renovator home renovations)" They sent me this one a while ago and I think it's so intriguing!

As always, this is a conversation starter, not a conversation limiter! We want to hear about everything that's up with you, excluding only political omnishambles!
posted by Eyebrows McGee to MetaFilter-Related at 4:54 PM (202 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

When the restaurant I'm in is playing classic rock but it's been remastered with big! honk! ing! me! chan! i! cal! ly! played! at! ten! tion! get! ting! drums that completely, utterly spoil the original piece. Drives me up a zarking wall.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:02 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


I am a data person, and I notice bad/confusing/misleading infographics.
posted by eirias at 5:04 PM on September 8 [7 favorites]


Sloppy painting. I worked as a house painter for a decade and it drives me nuts to see lap-marks on the walls and ceiling because they didn't keep a wet edge when they were rolling, bad cuts along the wall/ceiling border or paint drips on the floor or baseboard.
posted by octothorpe at 5:08 PM on September 8 [4 favorites]


As a knitter, I will notice if what you are wearing is handknit.

Then I will ask to touch it.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:11 PM on September 8 [29 favorites]


I took a long walk today and noticed every driver passing me discretely checking the cellphone in their lap.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 5:14 PM on September 8 [8 favorites]


I bought a new house this year and have begun the (long) process of furnishing it, and now find I cannot enjoy a television show because I spend the whole time examining all the furniture on the set.

I've also been spending a lot of time in the yard and now notice weeds that need to be pulled everywhere I go. I went on a walk this afternoon and a couple of times had to physically check myself from instinctively bending down to yank stuff out of the ground.
posted by something something at 5:14 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]


Gait & posture.

I work in para-sport and functional movement is my jam. I might not notice you got your haircut today but I know your back hurts because you havn’t Done something about that bum knee.
posted by mce at 5:14 PM on September 8 [12 favorites]


I can’t watch theatrical productions without looking for movement in the offstage sightlines.

Also, bad instructions, especially when two steps are given at once. This hurts people who write documentation.
posted by wellred at 5:16 PM on September 8 [5 favorites]


I'm a firefighter, so I tend to notice locations of emergency exits, fire suppression systems in buildings, and overall building construction/maintenance. I also try to pay attention to where my location is inside of a building.

In residential structures, I notice cleanliness and fire or injury hazards. I pretty much freak out internally if I’m somewhere and I don’t see functioning smoke alarms.

I imagine how to dismantle or cut vehicles in my head if it’s a vehicle I’m unfamiliar with.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 5:19 PM on September 8 [22 favorites]


I hear details in the sounds of small aircraft flying nearby that I think most people don't. I can usually differentiate between the three different sounds created by the engine, propeller, and airframe. By factoring in the character of each of the three I can tell a little about if the plane is climbing, descending, cruising, speeding up or slowing down, turning, etc.
posted by achrise at 5:24 PM on September 8 [7 favorites]


I worked in retail books and publishing for a combined total of almost 25 years—so whenever I see a photo that includes bookcases, or a tv show or movie that features bookcases, I’m always totally distracted by trying to see the titles of the books. Bonus points if I see a book I’ve read or, better yet, a book that I own!

I’m also a copywriter, so typos and extra spaces on signs, etc totally jump out at me.
posted by bookmammal at 5:38 PM on September 8 [15 favorites]


I work on software and try to avoid unnecessary data entry and data duplication, so I notice when someone asks me for data that they really don't need or already have. Like my son's daycare asking for my social security number or a business asking for my address 4 times in 5 months.

My wife is very tired of hearing me complain about unnecessary requests for info.
posted by Tehhund at 5:49 PM on September 8 [6 favorites]


I started working for a safe streets org here in NYC a year ago, and I am so much more aware of and sensitive to dangerous driving now. I even cringed during the (technically stunning) car chase scene in Black Panther - that stuff is hard for me to watch now! I've heard too many speeches from people who've lost family members who were just walking down the sidewalk when a speeding car crashed into them.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:55 PM on September 8 [9 favorites]


I live in California and I have a dog. So I notice foxtails everywhere. :-(

Professionally, I notice stupid legal stuff, especially in the environmental field. There was a thing that went around Twitter this week claiming that it was the LAST CHANCE OMG TO TELL THE GOVERNMENT not to frack in the California desert. And I looked at it, and it was a frelling scoping notice. That's not the last chance to do anything, it's the start of the environmental review process. Pfeh.
posted by suelac at 5:56 PM on September 8 [5 favorites]


I do extensive outreach work with opiate users. As a result I can spotpeople who are overdosing in public and make a quick determination as to whether they need Narcan/EMS attention or are just getting the intended high. I also notice syringes on the ground everywhere, even in areas without high concentrations of drug use.

Note to others; if a person can verbally respond to you and is breathing regularly they DO NOT need Narcan, even if their response time is slowed. It will kick a person into a quick and highly unpleasant withdrawal. Police in my city have been known to Narcan fully conscious people to boost their numbers of “lives saved”/power trip over homeless users, and it’s so unnecessarily cruel.
posted by I am a Sock, I am an Island at 6:13 PM on September 8 [34 favorites]


Books, because I love them and was a bookseller.
Cute dogs. (they are all cute.)
Traffic design, lack thereof, most often bad traffic design.
Body language.
Political signs. They are supposed to be taken down promptly; some campaigns are rather negligent. The wire frames can be re-purposed as garden trellises. My nasturtiums are climbing them.
Beautiful rugs.

The sky. How can you not notice how big and orange Mars has been? the moon? Beautiful sunsets, clouds, that slanting light late in the day? I moved partly so I would have darker skies at night and I get home at night, get out of the car, and look up. I love having a view to gaze at and feel privileged to live in a place where I have a pleasant view. A storm blew up the other day.Just as I thought O that rain was supposed to get here @ noon, and it's 12:08, the wind picked up, a line of dark clouds began to slide across the blue sky, and it got stormy. It was beautiful.
posted by theora55 at 6:16 PM on September 8 [15 favorites]


I notice every little noise and movement everywhere I go and the entire universe drives me insane sometimes. Everyone who breathes loud, chews loud, clips their nails on the train, types too loud, etc. Gah! Can't you all just stop?

But more specifically:

I used to teach in an outdoor leadership program and we did a lot of stuff on group dynamics and now in meetings I notice when people interrupt other people and it happens all the damn time.

My wife and I helped design our house with an architect a few years ago and now I tend to notice window styles and other details on houses because we were obsessed with that kind of thing for a couple of years.

I notice when my hands are dirty and I am constantly washing them. Comes from working in a hospital.

Now that I'm getting into woodworking I'm really noticing wood grain on everything and it's getting so there's nothing I love more than pretty wood grain.

I notice bad user interfaces of all types and it drives me nuts when I point it out to my wife and she just shrugs and goes "eh?" but for me there are few things worse than bad UI but it seems half the population doesn't even notice.
posted by bondcliff at 6:24 PM on September 8 [7 favorites]


Or we've given up complaining about the never-ending tidal wave of bad UI as an exercise in futility, and have instead elected to become inured to it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:34 PM on September 8 [7 favorites]


I have a vanity license plate and I am one of those people who has to point out every other vanity license plate I see. Nothing makes me happier than to see one I can't figure out immediately

Like the little old African American woman driving the giant Cadillac with the plate PNO LDY.

Like what!? Is that what I think it is? I told everyone about it until a friend gently pointed out that it probably meant she taught piano. Humph.
posted by kinsey at 6:40 PM on September 8 [4 favorites]


I used to critique the kerning and identify the typefaces on shop signs. Thank god that's faded as I've done less and less typesetting, because it was really annoying. Both to me and the people around me.
posted by Grangousier at 6:43 PM on September 8 [6 favorites]


Oh man. Given all my past careers, it's a list...

Typesetting is my big bugaboo, I notice EVERYTHING and man, there is no peace for my kind.

As a one-time gallery curator, I notice how all the pictures in your house or office are hung and what kinds of frames you have. If your photos or art has faded, due to not having the right kind of glass, I notice that too.

Having worked with a fair number of domestic violence cases, if you have any visible injuries, I will quickly scan to see if they are self-inflicted or a sign of an attack. (Side happy note, turns out, most people are generally pretty klutzy so don't feel bad about having a visible bruise).

I always look at bottles in movies and tv shows, because even if they removed the label, you can still pretty well guess what kind of liquor, wine or beer it used to have.

The sound of a good touch typist will always stand out to me, something about the regular rhythm and even strikes.

I listen to and diagnose engines without even trying to. My my neighbor's lawn mower quit on him yesterday, I was able walk over and told him what it was before it even cooled off.

If you are wearing something well-tailored, I might compliment it, but I rarely note if something is ill fitting, it's just too common.

In general, don't worry about me calling you out, though, I usually don't show off these skills because it makes people self-conscious
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:45 PM on September 8 [6 favorites]


I'm a medical coder and every single drug commercial I always say in my head the code for whatever condition is being treated. J44.9! I48.91!
posted by ilovewinter at 6:47 PM on September 8 [27 favorites]


I make sculpture out of found bits and pieces so I am always picking up washers and screws and interesting looking bits of plastic and metal when I'm out and about, so I notice stuff like that, and dogs, mostly.
posted by Chairboy at 7:02 PM on September 8 [8 favorites]


I work in a chem lab (in a teaching capacity), so I'm always mentally cataloguing whether someone is wearing lab appropriate attire or not. "Oh those socks are too short" or "Inappropriate footwear" etc.
posted by litera scripta manet at 7:03 PM on September 8 [5 favorites]


My neighbor's lawn mower quit on him yesterday, I was able walk over and told him what it was before it even cooled off.

It ain't got no gas in it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:10 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]


I worked in a few places where IEDs were a thing and now I notice every piece of garbage or plastic on the road or sidewalk.
posted by rpfields at 7:12 PM on September 8 [9 favorites]


As a food server/bartender/hr person on the loose, I will always suggest that perhaps you are Precisely where you need to be, right now because everything you are saying is precisely on point, but one more is not going to be attractive. Do please listen.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:13 PM on September 8 [4 favorites]


Stupid wet squishy sound effects whenever an action hero is removing a bullet from their leg. It would be basically soundless in real life. (I used to work in surgery.)

Body language here, too; all the little stuff that flies by in an instant. Split seconds of regret, discomfort, contempt, amusement, anger. Not necessarily as useful as you would think, because you never really know where it is coming from. It may not have anything to do with the obvious thing.

I also get super distracted by interior design on TV, and end up pausing and rewinding a lot.

Hi Mefi, it's been a while since I came around and mostly-lurked.
posted by moira at 7:18 PM on September 8 [12 favorites]


Someone once told me that the way to tell if a pinstripe suit is well made/tailored is if the pinstripes line up on the shoulder. Now I obsess about looking at every pinstripe suit/jacket I see. (I am not even sure if that is true.)

Inefficiency. Watching someone do some process or some task and seeing a much more efficient way to do it really strikes me.

I notice when something is out of place. Even if I have never been in that room or even if I do not know where it belongs, I know it is out of place. This has come in handy when I find something that the person was missing but could not locate.
posted by AugustWest at 7:49 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


I code medical records. Icd10 codes start with a letter. Know what else starts with a letter? IL License plates. Never mind the state game, if you’re driving with me, you’ll hear
about at least what category the beginning digits of the car in front of us correspond to if not the diagnosis. ( hey look! We’re right behind a diabetic neuropathy!)
posted by jacy at 7:51 PM on September 8 [39 favorites]


After reading this thread, I now feel like I don't notice anything. There are clearly a lot of people tuned into a lot of things I'm oblivious to. I do notice birds and their songs and if I can't tell what bird it is I'm hearing I'll want to stop and try to figure it out. Back when I worked in a building with a lot of other people I always noticed if someone's monitor had its refresh rate set at only 60 Hz. I was always saying, "Doesn't that drive you crazy?" and fixing people's monitors so they didn't flicker. They usually said they couldn't tell the difference.
posted by Redstart at 7:59 PM on September 8 [10 favorites]


I went to massage school several years ago and worked as a massage therapist for a time. Mostly that means I *really* notice when massage therapists portrayed on TV and in movies are doing actual massage, and when they're just moving their hands around on someone's back. (The answer is, respectively, never and always.)
posted by duffell at 8:00 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]


I've gotten fairly good at recognizing different varieties of herbs and succulents. It's always nice to see in my neighborhood a monster Aeonium and think, huh, I have that variety in the front- just not as big. Or seeing someones herb pot and thinking- ah that's sage, but it's not bergarrten sage. Stupid things like that.

We have so many carrots now- and a very happy echeveria (look at it! I love it!) The tomato is rebounding still don't know how well it's going to do, but it's hope at least. The mitsuba is sprouting, which is nice, and I'm well on my way to peppers.

Dad's ok- but he has to wear a halter monitor for a month, and he has a small hole in his heart which is terrifying. There saying its a fairly benign birth defect that probably had nothing to do with the stroke but holy hell.

The job I did a work interview at hasn't gotten back to be one way or the other and it's really highlighting how disorganized they are. I need the job, and they're so close to my house, and its our vet- but eeesh. I'm going to give it another week and then inquire. It's gonna be awkward next time we have to take the dog in for a check-up that's for sure. But they're so... I'm actually thinking maybe if I don't get the job it's for the best. Not sure I want to work with people who are that good at dropping the ball...

Maybe i'll build another carrot bed. That'll take my mind off of things. And dad should eat more carrots.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 8:17 PM on September 8 [10 favorites]


I imagine how to dismantle or cut vehicles in my head if it’s a vehicle I’m unfamiliar with.

If you don't mind my asking, could you tell me if you have any experience with extracting people from vehicles with full or partial roll-cages installed? I've heard a few different things on the subject and I'd be curious to hear from a real-life firefighter how the presence of a rollcage might affect the relative difficulty of the extraction process. TIA
posted by some loser at 8:35 PM on September 8


Myself, one thing I notice is cats. I can spot a cat a mile away. I have this one story that illustrates this perfectly I think:

So I'm in this South American country known for its rivers, and I'm on this thing I think it was called a sea kayak, and I'm paddling down this river with another person behind me.. and we pass by this cool rustic looking house with a veranda that faces me and the river. And I see this cat on one of the chairs on the veranda.. Now the house is probably a good 80-100 feet from us (we were in the middle of the river), and the cat looks pretty small from where I am, but we lock eyes, me and this cat, and for some reason I can't quite explain, I stop paddling and wave to the cat. So my partner in this watercraft kind of gives a grunt and stops paddling when he notices what I'm doing. I put down my hand and grab my paddle with two hands and start paddling again, and i notice he's not paddling anymore, so I look back, and he's waving too. I'm thinking, now *that's* weird, does he see the cat too? Is he a weirdo like I am? so I look back towards the house, then back to him, then back to the house, and i see movement in the window...

There's a person in the window.... waving back at us.

I never saw the person until that very moment. Just the cat.
posted by some loser at 8:44 PM on September 8 [18 favorites]


It's mostly due to growing up in an agricultural community where water is a really big concern, but I notice water waste everywhere all the time, especially people "watering" the sidewalk because they couldn't be bothered to set their sprinklers right or watering their lawn in the middle of the day. It drives me bonkers. I fear in my older age I shall become that person who leaves really passive aggressive notes on their neighbor's doors. I always notice the water levels in streams and dams or how vegetation looks, too- is it dry for that time of year, is it greener, are the leaves turning early due to drought, etc.

I notice a lot of things as a geologist, like building stones or that there's a sudden vegetation change on a hillside or what the terrain is like in movies. But GEOHAZARDS. Holy shitcakes, sweetcheeks. So much building on or below obviously slumping hillsides or in active avalanche pathways or in floodplains or at the base of fault scarps. I've railed at a hundred zoning/planning entities for allowing people to build where they do, or mining (like that limestone mine outside one of Miami's aquifers), and on and on. When the trees on a slope are doing this, you shouldn't allow giant ski resort condos to be built at the base of that slope, Summit County, Colorado. Houses in obvious wildfire zones, not just the wildland-urban interface, that don't defensible space or have asphalt roofs. Or little things like ripping out all the willows along a stream because you don't like homeless people sleeping in them and then acting all surprised when a small rise in water levels erodes out a bunch of streambank, Denver.

*cough* So, uh, yeah, I notice these things and get super uptight and anxious and angry about it most of the time, unless things are being done right, and then I'm happy! As part of that, I also notice people who leave debris in the street - like they rake their leaves into the gutter, or construction sites where there's a lot of dirt because they haven't set up barriers - because I'm aware of how silt build-up can damage drainage systems and affect dams as well as ecosystem damage from whatever might get in the water.

I'm also just this real concrete nerd and really notice concrete, and cement plants, and limestone/chalk mining operations, because concrete is everywhere and it's really important to how our society builds, and its cost is dependent on how easily you can access it. I always notice how clean and well-run concrete batching plants look; I always remember the most beautifully clean, just in tip-top shape ones, and thinking about them makes me happy. If I'm somewhere new and I see a cement plant, I always stop and ask for a tour, and they're almost always just really happy, ecstatic even, to give them!

In short, I'm just *super* fun at parties!
posted by barchan at 8:58 PM on September 8 [54 favorites]


I'm a UX designer so "This is a bad user experience" is something I say all the time.
posted by bleep at 8:59 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]


Like all skateboarders, I see skateable stuff all the time.

I have a thing with recognizing and matching musical fragments, usually in songs that are at least trying to be good.
posted by rhizome at 9:09 PM on September 8 [2 favorites]


I like to identify stuff like birds and plants and trees, etc. So I will always notice if there's a bird I can't tell right away or a pretty/unusual plant I don't know. These days I may stop to "collect" them with a photo for the Seek app. I also often stop to see if I can figure out what birds are making sounds, as I'm still a novice at bird calls.
I used to be an archaeologist, so I still keep my eyes on the ground a lot. You find all kinds of weird stuff in the city that way, and after hiking I usually come home having to empty my pockets of pretty rocks or odd shaped pieces of wood or what have you. I keep the neatest things in a glass-topped shadowbox... or two, or three...
posted by gemmy at 9:21 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]


I notice loose change on the sidewalk, even in areas where you'd think people would scoop every last coin up for a cup of coffee. I tend to leave it sit in such places.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 9:29 PM on September 8 [2 favorites]


I drink a lot of tea and eat a lot of bread, and I'm usually pretty decent at picking the blend of tea, the types of flour, and if it was made in a steam oven etc. I think maybe cause I grew up in the country and spent a lot of time in the bush by myself that I look at trees a little more than other people might.

Up and down week for me. A couple of weeks ago, I took one of the cats into the vet for a check up, turns out he has a heart murmur. $1200 bucks, several blood tests and a veterinary cardiologist later, turns out he has a congenital heart defect, and has 6-12 months left to live, max. He's only 2.

On the bright side, I had a great run yesterday. It was the first great run I've had in a long time, so that was nice.
posted by smoke at 9:55 PM on September 8 [8 favorites]


As a rock climber I think about how climbable exposed rock faces and stone buildings are. Given the chance I may try to climb a few feet, though about waist high is my free solo limit.

As an attorney I notice when something I'm reading or watching has legal errors. TV shows, movies, and tech blogs are some of the worst offenders. But I suspect most everyone feels that way about their job, except maybe screenwriters.

As an amateur vigneron in a borderline climate for growing European grapes I notice (and care about) the weather far more than I used to. And between that and amateur gardening I have a developed a deep suspicion of rabbits, raccoons, and squirrels and an equally deep sympathy for Mr. McGregor. Peter Rabbit was the real villain in those stories.

As an amateur woodworker I notice the joinery in furniture. In museums and antique shops I'm always excited to see tool marks, imperfections, or signs of efficient use of time or materials. For example, the bottoms and backs of furniture were often made of remarkably rough-hewn lumber. After all, why waste the material and effort on something people would never see?

I was once moved to tears at the Met Museum when I looked at the underside of this massive, ornately carved, painted, and inlaid 14th century bookstand and saw that, amid all of its fantastic workmanship and artistry, there was a tell-tale blemish made by sawing just a little too far on one of the joints, the same mistake I had made on some of my own (smaller, much less ornate) bookstands in the same style.
posted by jedicus at 9:55 PM on September 8 [17 favorites]


Adherence to the PEP 8 style guide.
:(
posted by Going To Maine at 10:11 PM on September 8 [4 favorites]


As a potter I always check the bottom of handmade pottery. Also the weight of cups and bowls. Bottom heavy is not good.
posted by cairnoflore at 10:13 PM on September 8 [5 favorites]


Because I volunteer with the police, I got good at 1) Identifying SPD vs. State Patrol roof lights from a distance (State Patrol is a slightly different shade of red) 2) Identifying sirens from cops vs firetrucks vs ambulances 3) recognizing the sound of a patrol car engine revving vs civilian cars.

For other reasons, the unbelievably pervasive use of the words "pimp" and "whore" as signifiers for a wide range of of things besides those meanings associated with prostitution, everywhere - TV, movies, music, advertising, SQL PASS technical talks...everywhere.
posted by Gorgik at 10:23 PM on September 8 [5 favorites]


I used to be a stage electrician and lighting designer. I can spot the burnout and can tell which actors know where their marks are, and which don’t.

Also I spent a bunch of time house hunting a while back and started to notice lots of kitchens staged without a fridge. (That thing they have staged as a breakfast nook? It’s a pantry.)
posted by expialidocious at 10:55 PM on September 8 [4 favorites]


I notice ahistorical clothing in period films and television and it annoys me so much I usually have to do something else. I try not to say anything if I'm watching with another person. The movie will not be made better by me pointing out a few terrible hats.

I have a very good nose and notice smells others' don't. Most things are stinky, so it's not really a blessing, but I guess it might keep me from eating rotten food sometimes.

I over-notice bugs. It might be lint, but in my mind it's a bug and I'm gonna smash it.

I do not notice grody stuff on the side walk, and I really wish I did.
posted by Stonkle at 10:59 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]


Really fun topic!

Since I discovered the Thomasson a few years ago, I've delighted in finding them. I've always been keen on finding video cameras and photographing hostile archetecture, to a degree that probably annoys my friends.

As a working scientists and science fiction fan, I love seeing lab hardware used weird places in film. The undiced silicon wafers (probably photovoltaic cells) in TNG's Eye of the Beholder, and the number of cryogenic storage dewars sitting around in storage bays in Enterprise and the Trek films are delightful. The misused glassware in everything is so common that it's impossible to list.

Some years ago I lent a full set of cleanroom gowns and related safety gear to a very talented art department head working on an awful vanity film project, 'cause they didn't want to spend $500 to rent plausible hazmat suits. I assure you, you have not seen the film. But, watching people walking around in tyvek designed to keep skin flakes in and face masks designed to avoid acid splashes, while combating an airborne "plague" was absolutely hilarious.
posted by eotvos at 11:05 PM on September 8 [14 favorites]


I'm another copy-editor/proofreader who automatically registers typos, spelling errors, misplaced apostrophes and so on, as well as translation errors into English. (Any other members of this tribe, go find yourself a copy of Anne Fadiman's essay "Insert a Carrot", because it will ring so true.)
I also grew up with a father whose idea of a great game was turning the radio to a classical station and guessing the piece, so I got good at this too (which helped a LOT come senior comprehensive exams in college), and I still automatically turn a music-theory ear to whatever I'm listening to. (My husband has been playing me songs by his favorite band, because we're going to hear them live next month; I said "Hey, I like this one." "Awesome! What do you like, the lyrics?" "The chromatic melody line is really cool!" "...?")

Japan has had a really rough week; first a staggering typhoon in the West on Tuesday--the first time I've ever felt my apartment actually sway from side to side in the wind, it was terrifying--and then an earthquake in Hokkaido on Thursday morning, I think it was. Everyone is just kind of hoping the natural disasters will leave us be for a while.
posted by huimangm at 11:25 PM on September 8 [16 favorites]


bookmammal, I worked in a bookstore in the late 90s, and I had something similar, though it's mostly gone now. I remember, though, when the movie Wolf came out, Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfieffer, set at a publishing company. Pretty forgeta me, except I remember noticing that most all of the books on the shelves were the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time hardcovers, but with all of the text removed, just leaving the art on the spine.

Having run a restaurant, and working in one now, I can't go out to eat without keeping track of the things I see that could be improved on, or if they're doing something good that is new to me, I can't help but try to think how we could implement it. It's not something that keeps me from enjoying being at a restaurant, but it does get a little distracting at times, and there are definitely times when I wish I could just shut it off and focus on the meal and the company I'm with.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:50 PM on September 8 [7 favorites]


I love to cook, so I notice the smaller details in cooking shows and cooking scenes in movies (or commercials, or posters, or..., or...).

I will be watching "Master Chef" and be yelling at the TV because "that's *not* how you should hold a knife!".

Culinary trigger warning: the Epucurious "50 Person Prep Challenge"
posted by alchemist at 12:23 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


Your veins. Can I stick a needle in them? I’m pretty sure I could. Yeah, I could definitely get a needle in there.

Also I will reach out and palpate your veins sometimes without thinking if I’m real tired. I sometimes turn this into an awkward pat and other times I just stare blearily at you and say, you got nice veins man. I could get an 18 gauge in there no sweat.

I also analyse fake heart rhythms. Like if you put a decorative ecg on something? I am muttering about how you have hyperkalemia because the t wave is so giant. And why is your q-t so long, wtf?
posted by supercrayon at 1:01 AM on September 9 [24 favorites]


Improper pipet technique in film and television.
Plants that need water.
Weeds that need weeding.
Horrible orange mulch.
Good gardens and interesting hardscaping.
Medical folk wearing scrubs, booties and lab coats outside.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:29 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


The world is awash with strange generalizations about the Victorians...and I notice all of them.

Representations of the average academic's life, especially our department offices (which are apparently filled with leather chairs, glass-fronted bookcases, and expensive leather-bound editions).

I collected Breyer horses from childhood through college, and whenever I see them in antiques stores, I compulsively check to see if the seller has identified them correctly.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:23 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


Pinall machines. I notice pinball machines in TV and movies. It’s amazing how often a modern era machine will be denoted with the anachronistic sound of an electromechanical pinball machine, because that characteristic bell and chime means “pinball” to most people. That, or the sound team is iverworked and underpaid and that’s the effect labelled “pinball” on their on-hand licensed sound file.

If we’re watching media nd a pinball machine is glimpsed in a scene, we will always pause, try to ID it, figure out if any of us have ever played it.

Mr. LockIsLit is an avid chess player. It’s amazing how many TV and movie productions, using a chess board or active game to indicate “intellect,” will have the board set up incorrectly. Queen on her color, people!
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 3:39 AM on September 9 [7 favorites]


After over 10 years working with preschoolers, I can tell at a glance if a kid needs their diaper changed.

The typhoon this week trashed my school's playground, and it took about six hours of work to clear it.

Out of curiosity, huimangm, what band are you going to see?
posted by emmling at 4:16 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


My Dad showed me how there is a little black dot in the top right of the screen and then a cut- that means that the film reel is changed.
I kind of miss not seeing it with these all digital films.

As a teacher I'm always spotting rubbish and picking it up.
posted by freethefeet at 4:19 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


My job involves noticing the tones of and balance between various musical instruments and voices, which a lot of people don't notice except in a general "sounds good/sounds bad" kind of way. Luckily, mostly I can leave this at work - background music is background music, I can tune out most anything.

But one of the things that was almost undoubtedly a factor in steering me towards this job is that for about as long as I've been listening to music as music (so, like, since I was 6 or so) I will occasionally get obsessed with songs and listen to them over and over and over because there's like a cool rhythm guitar part that starts in the second verse, or a great harmony vocal in the bridge, or a neat drum turnaround between the verse and chorus - little details of performance or song structure that just hit me the right way. I've long since given up trying to point these things out to non-musician friends; they either genuinely don't hear them or just don't get why I think these little parts are so awesome.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:49 AM on September 9 [7 favorites]


There’s the cat spotting skill I mentioned last week. Otherwise, I have to be very careful with library shelves (including my own employer library) as otherwise I can get sucked into reshelving because I can spot an incorrectly located shelfmark (Dewey or LoC) very easily and it itches.
posted by halcyonday at 5:05 AM on September 9 [6 favorites]


Also, re: noticing prop departments & writers playing fast and loose with things in TV & film:

Of course this happens with sound/audio stuff, too. All those scenes where the main characters go to a tiny club where a band is playing and then proceed to have a conversation at a normal conversational volume? Hahaha NO.

And wireless microphones don't just magically make sound come out of the air.

And when the FBI tech says, "Here let me just eliminate the background noise from this wiretap recording" and then turns to a desktop doodad with a bunch of knobs and buttons? Yeah, no, that's a $150 Mackie mixing board that won't do that no matter which knobs you turn, and really won't do that by turning the pan knob.

The real fun one is that pro/semi-pro audio equipment often gets used for any sort of "high tech" thing, because lots of knobs and buttons and blinky lights and display screens. That "drone control center" in the panel van is likely as not to have a Behringer compressor or an Eventide H3000 pitch-shifter/digital reverb or a TC Electronic 2290 digital delay for the actors to frantically poke at.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:26 AM on September 9 [7 favorites]


It's a kind of game I play in my brain whenever I go to a restaurant, I imagine what would happen if ninjas came into the restaurant and started attacking, I make sure to be aware of where the exits are located, what objects I could throw to distract, who I would or wouldn't trust to fight with me, and/or where is a good place to hide or crouch, I run through all these Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle like scenarios in my brain. I do this every where.
posted by Fizz at 5:32 AM on September 9 [10 favorites]


HI notice dogs and cats looking out the window at people like me passing on the sidewalk.
posted by moonmilk at 5:35 AM on September 9 [5 favorites]


> Chairboy:
"I make sculpture out of found bits and pieces so I am always picking up washers and screws and interesting looking bits of plastic and metal when I'm out and about"
Chairboy, I notice stuff like that and bring some of it home. I wish I could send it to you to make cool beautiful art.
posted by theora55 at 5:45 AM on September 9


I work in the open knowledge world. I notice how Creative Commons images are attributed. Spoiler: mostly incorrectly. Local papers are the worst, but it also happens in actual books. "Photo: Wikipedia" hurts to see, even if it's way better than a complete lack of attribution.

PSA: Please do use Creative Commons images in your blog post, presentation, news article, book. That's what they are for. But also do mention the author and licence.

I can no longer read local papers. Sometimes I write a letter. Some people send invoices :)
posted by Vesihiisi at 5:50 AM on September 9 [7 favorites]


Because of my education/job: bad instructional design.

Just in general: I notice when people aren't what they say they are, when they're putting on a show, when they're not being their actual self. To me it feels like how people who have perfect pitch say a bum note feels. Something is just wrong, almost physically. A lot of people that others describe to me as "charismatic" wind up giving me the screaming fantods.

Tl;dr: I am that one friend who when she says "he's bad news" you should listen.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:10 AM on September 9 [10 favorites]


I was an electrician for years, and so now I can't not notice electrical stuff - any unusual switches or receptacles, anything odd about the light fixtures. If it's an old house, I'll notice if it looks like it used to be piped for gas, or spotting where holes were made in the ceiling for wires to be snaked in. If it's a commercial type space with exposed walls/ceilings, I'll find myself tracing the path of the pipes without realizing it.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:28 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


Music in public spaces. I do hear it, my brain involuntarily engages with it, I can't un-notice it, and here in Sweden where it's either some Swedish glitz-pop fresh from the pre-rounds of Melodifestivalen, or some guitar-betwanged silence-filler, it drives me pretty nuts sometimes...impairs my communication skills when we're out doing groceries.

Or, like, Vivaldi at the dentist. I know that some rat studies (at least I guess it was rats, cuz who else) have shown that Vivaldi calms the nerves. But as I will automatically begin thinking about the musical interpretation, I actually can get pretty upset...

On the other hand, yes, the slow movement of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto at the sub-level train station in Göteborg Liseberg makes me feel calm and safe no matter I'm waiting lonely in a dark tunnel under the unmoving eyes of a bunch of security cameras, so in principle, canned music works on me like everyone else.

I guess shopping in Va. is easier for me because there it's usually some bluegrass or blues or old-school rock you hear...
posted by Namlit at 6:28 AM on September 9 [5 favorites]


I'm in sales, so I'm really sensitive the abilities of any other salesperson I'm dealing with in a retail setting, car dealership, etc.

I'm impressed about once a year.
posted by COD at 6:37 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


Because I was an editor at a newspaper for years, I tend to notice typos. But I don't let them ruin my day.

Because I've written a few cookbooks, I notice food styling and recipe quirks -- particularly where those two things meet. So if a recipe turns out something delicious and brown, it will call for something green (parsley, chives, whatever) on top of it, even if you at home would not bother with it. Because they won't put it in the photo if it's not in the recipe. And if you don't include that little green thing in your recipe, your editor will ask you too. And if she doesn't, then the photo editor will. And if you gently push back, you will probably lose.

And parsley doesn't seem like a hill on which to die.

This is really just a subset of being hyperaware of all of those ridiculously staged food shots where everything is just so and even the crumbs were placed with tweezers. It drives me nuts.
posted by veggieboy at 6:46 AM on September 9 [8 favorites]


I used to notice string trimmers, but not as much anymore. I do still notice ceiling fans, and check to see if it's one I worked on. I designed a hanging system, so that's pretty easy to spot still.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:53 AM on September 9 [6 favorites]


smoke, I'm sorry to hear about your furry-purry and their heart condition. I was diagnosed with a heart murmur as a child but it eventually went away, somehow healed up on its own or my heart just found a way to deal with it, unbelievable as that may sound. I don't want to give you false hope but, anecdata.



(segue back to topic)

Fight choreography in movies and TV is another thing I notice, having extensive experience and training in various fighting systems over the years.

Like most people, when you know something about the subject, you see just how sloppy or fantastical these things are portrayed by outsiders in the film industry. I've no doubt that a lot of this crap is the fault of directors who don't take the advice of their fight choreographers, since I've known some serious badass mofos who have done fight choreography consulting and I know they know what they're talking about, so if there's glaring errors it has got to be due to outside influence.

Like in the recent Jack Ryan netflix dealio... So Jack is an ex marine and if I did my math right, the US Marines unarmed combat program was heavily based on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu back when he would have been trained (i had a copy of the manual from back then). So when the scenes where he's fighting are grappling heavy, I'm just sitting there yelling at the screen: Upa! Upa! what are you doing, he's got you mounted and you're just gonna sit there? Bridge you idiot! this is like DAY 1 stuff! What you think you can generate enough power for effective kidney punches from under mount? DID YOU LEARN NOTHING?? Holy shit they're gonna have me believe that the guy on top was hurt by those wimpy arm punches from the bottom?!?! why isn't he bridging!?!?!? argh!! ok he's in your guard now, SWEEP, SWEEP!!! he's off balance, sweep to omo-plata. grab a wrist, he's open for a triangle choke!!! why are you trying to punch from the bottom>?? you know you can't hurt him!?!? Weren't you in the Marines guy!?! WTF!>!>I guess in this world physics doesn't work the same as our world.. sigh.
posted by some loser at 7:08 AM on September 9 [9 favorites]


some loser: I don’t have any experience with roll cages. I’ve not worked at a racetrack, although everyone in this arena knows someone who could “get you on” to work a race (Darlington or Charlotte, in my area), and we rarely have convertibles/little roadsters to cut up for training. The folks I’d trust to give me information on these techniques would be at the racetrack.

I suppose if I came across an inverted passenger vehicle with a roll cage, stabilization would be even more important than a vehicle without; utilize lots of cribbing and struts if you got ‘em (my current dept doesn’t carry struts because we can’t justify them; we’re finally starting an extrication program after 103 years of service because I’ve been adamant about building one). Once the vehicle is supported properly, I just have to cut the people out.

The newer extrication tools can cut much harder metals than the old ones (you’re probably thinking of the Hurst 32A or 32B spreader, and some depts still run them, because they still work) and use batteries for power so I don’t have to worry about apparatus placement or hoses or finding room on my rig for a hydraulic pump, etc.

In YouTube, there’s a video that someone took at FDIC this year of some Hurst guys dismantling a Tesla; I haven’t had a chance to sit down and watch it and pay attention, but I did get to see the frame up at the plant. It is badass.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 7:15 AM on September 9 [5 favorites]


Your veins. Can I stick a needle in them? I’m pretty sure I could. Yeah, I could definitely get a needle in there.

I do this, but for dogs. I'm a vet tech so I will notice veins on a dog, or especially long nails that I just. need. to. cut. I also find myself tightening collars after seeing so many dogs slip out of theirs.
posted by cozenedindigo at 7:22 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


smoke, I'm sorry about your kitty. I hope he beats all the odds and lives past 20.

I can spot a narcissist a mile away. I'm also one of those people you should listen to if I say I just don't like/trust someone.

I notice people in distress, especially children. Could be the regular, garden variety distress of waiting too long in line, being tired after a long day, or it could be that I'm seeing a parent quietly verbally abusing their child. I still don't know what to do in those situations. I try to catch the kid's eye and give a sympathetic look, or catch the parent's eye and give my best you fucking asshole look. I wish I didn't notice that stuff.

I always notice kitties because KITTIES!

As a chef, I definitely notice and cannot let it go when someone on TV or in a movie is Doing It Wrong.
posted by cooker girl at 7:31 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


I am not an artist, but years ago as part of my job I used Photoshop to design online ads for local retailers that would run on our newspaper's website. I was given a flat black and white newspaper ad with no source materials and had to recreate it in color and only 234 or 468 (big spenders!) pixels long.

Today, I always notice the slightest change in branding on grocery store products. As in, I'm standing in the middle of the gravy/sauce aisle holding a jar of Prego, trying to explain to my husband that there's now a bevel where there wasn't and don't you remember the logo was in an oval and now it's in a rectangle?
posted by kimberussell at 7:32 AM on September 9 [7 favorites]


I am really getting into making my own clothes! I find myself looking at the attire of people when I am out and about. Like, really studying how a garment is structured. Just recently I was mentally deconstructing a really cool dress a lady had on, and she noticed! We had an excellent conversation on sewing and upcycling and it was wonderful!
posted by LaBellaStella at 7:37 AM on September 9 [7 favorites]


Something I think a lot of attorneys notice is that the generic "impressive bookshelves" set dressing in a ton of movies and TV shows are law reporters (i.e. books reporting legal opinions) and statute books. This is especially funny when the business or character that owns the books has nothing to do with the law, so they were probably chosen because they've become an inexpensive source of cheap hardcovers, as law firms and law libraries move to digital sources.

I'm not sure if younger attorneys will catch it as easily, as a lot of law schools (rightly, in my opinion) no longer teach how to do legal research using printed sources.
posted by jedicus at 7:45 AM on September 9 [6 favorites]


I write surveys and questionnaires, so whenever I take one I immediately notice poorly written questions or bad survey design. It's actually pretty rare that I finish a survey and come away thinking it was well-designed; oftentimes I wonder if I should reach out to the organization and offer my services.
posted by Fuego at 7:48 AM on September 9 [5 favorites]


I noticed an emotional flashback trigger when dining with a friend. It was connected to the persistent, loud din rising like a tide drowning earlier, more personal and enjoyable moments. Loneliness, resentment, and fear of abandonment surged within.

But now I'm better at noticing flashbacks as they are. I spoke about them. I let my tears out, as they demanded, no more no less. I felt it was possible to be vulnerable with the friend, and I trusted them, and they trusted in the trust. I felt very grateful to them for their empathy.
posted by runcifex at 7:49 AM on September 9 [7 favorites]


I made myself a goal this year of Getting Better At Local Plants and now I notice the fireweed and Oregon grape and horsetail and pineapple weed everywhere.
posted by darchildre at 8:18 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


And, yes, I totally noticed my own typo. It was bound to happen.
posted by veggieboy at 8:22 AM on September 9 [5 favorites]


From my career, I notice Lean flow (or lack thereof) when I go places where speed is of the essence. It bugs me so much when there are inefficient systems. I also notice good 5S, and bad.

Now that I'm in safety, I can't not notice when people are being unsafe. Use the handrail on stairs! Don't cellphone and walk! Especially don't cellphone and walk on stairs! I was at a brewery with a friend a few weeks ago and had to move my chair so I couldn't watch what was going on behind me -- they were setting up for a festival. The stage was made out of pallets stacked on top of kegs. Dudes were tooling around on forklifts, driving with the forks partially up, no seatbelts, etc. I moved when someone stood on the forks and took a ride across the parking lot. Plus they had some material stacking issues in their warehouse.

In short, I'd like to join the group of people who are super fun to hang out with!
posted by Fig at 8:23 AM on September 9 [6 favorites]


Sloppy painting. I worked as a house painter for a decade and it drives me nuts to see lap-marks on the walls and ceiling because they didn't keep a wet edge when they were rolling, bad cuts along the wall/ceiling border or paint drips on the floor or baseboard.

I was in insurance restorations a lifetime ago, and I notice all the shitty unfinished "good enough" construction, everywhere I go. That cover plate is not properly affixed. That drywall should get a transition edging. Somebody forgot the end cap on that banister.

The world is shoddy, people.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:23 AM on September 9 [11 favorites]


Well lately I've been spotting emotional labor friends are doing around men and blathering on them to the point a friend said she was making tea for a male friend and said she knew I'd hate it and others have asked if I've gone full on man hating lesbian. Still internally debating that one.

As a knitter I notice when people on tv and in photos aren't actually knitting and holding needles wrong. Or worse, actually crocheting.

As a canadian I notice accents of canadians in media when they are portraying Americans.

As a ptsd person I am really good at spotting body language and can pick up pretty quickly everyone's emotions in the room. I've been called a witch coz of it and am ok with that.

Any dog. Driving with me will most likely result in our conversation being interrupted so I can point out that cute dog!
posted by kanata at 8:30 AM on September 9 [13 favorites]


After working a bunch of festival sites, I notice fire hazards and unsafe working practices all over the place.
I had to stop watching some science fiction series I had started on Netflix when someone did a space walk to go fix a radio antenna and accidentally knocked their giant spanner spiralling off into space. Surely people in space go on the "working at height" course where they explain about tethering your tools!
posted by quacks like a duck at 8:31 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


- On TV and movies, climbing equipment and rigging setups for rock climbers or stunt performers.
- Also, how obviously the extras playing news photographers and paparazzi on screen don't know how to use their equipment. Their hands aren't even in the right place! But I still try to identify the cameras and lenses used.
posted by thenormshow at 8:35 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


Since I studied Anthropology/Archaeology, and work in a museum, I notice artifact use/misuse in movies and tv, and anachronistic stuff in historical dramas, and can get quite angry.

I also nerd out when something gets halfway to being correct. So, for example, the gunstock club [alternate name, rabbit leg club] use in The Last of the Mohicans movie (photo); I can't speak to the authenticity of the fighting style, but they obviously put quite a bit of work into the look of the club and had someone skilled make it for them.

I also notice when real archaeological sites stand in for stuff in movies, like Tikal in the first Star Wars movie. So, here we are in the theater towards the climax of the movie, and everyone in the theater becomes annoyed as I'm excitedly piping up to Mr. gudrun - "That's Tikal", rather than watching the action.

Also, my mother was an artist/painter, and I pretty much grew up watching her work in her home studio, and having to critique her pieces, going to shows of other artists, museums, etc., etc.. So, any time someone is playing an artist in a film/tv, I'm noticing whether they actually look like they are painting ... how they hold the brush, apply the paint, draw with charcoal, etc., etc. As you can imagine, it rarely looks right to me ... sigh.

And of course, cats. I love them - so when I'm anywhere I'm always spotting cats ... in windows, people's yards, and even petting them when it is at all possible.
posted by gudrun at 8:42 AM on September 9 [5 favorites]


I notice autotune, even when it's supposedly so subtle nobody would notice it. Basically I can't watch modern TV or movie musicals, and you don't want me in the room while you're watching them. I get especially annoyed when they do it to a person who doesn't need it.

Also: I've long since given up trying to point these things out to non-musician friends; they either genuinely don't hear them or just don't get why I think these little parts are so awesome.

Yeah, that too. "But seriously, listen to how crisp that drum sound is." "Hear that feedback? The note was plucked 30 seconds ago. Rewind and listen again."

And: All those scenes where the main characters go to a tiny club where a band is playing and then proceed to have a conversation at a normal conversational volume? Hahaha NO.

Also, cell phone conversations in convertibles. Not on the highway, you're not having that conversation.

And as a photo hobbyist: I notice it every time a person with an SLR has their left hand on top of the lens with their palm and thumb facing down. For stability you hold the camera with your left palm underneath the lens and your elbows close to your body. There's a stabilization trick where you can hold the camera out in front of your body, tensioned against the neck strap, but that's kind of a specialized case. Otherwise, you keep your elbows tucked and support the camera with both hands instead of having your left arm held up and your elbow hanging loose. Actors in TV shows do this elbow out thing all the time.
posted by fedward at 9:05 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


Also, cell phone conversations in convertibles. Not on the highway, you're not having that conversation.

Make sure you turn off your brain on this specific thing you've noticed, for EVERY Fast & Furious film ever. Oh man, it's hilarious how they're driving these suped up cars with all kinds of modifications on the engines to make them faster, louder, etc. And then there's the wind which only increases in volume the faster you travel. I have a Honda Civic and I can barely hear someone sitting next to me when the windows are down a crack when we're on the highway. Grrr.
posted by Fizz at 9:15 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I watch a lot of movies and shows from other countries, but at least half of my attention is on the infrastructure and anthropogenic landscapes in the background. Things like: Look, they are farming right up to the edge of the creek. Or: That staircase would be a total code violation here. Also, I notice how many movies supposedly set deep in the "jungle" are in fact filmed on farmland, with the actors hacking their way through banana or yam plants.

If I'm somewhere new and I see a cement plant, I always stop and ask for a tour, and they're almost always just really happy, ecstatic even, to give them!

I've done the same thing with interesting-looking sewage treatment plants. They are always surprised to get a random visitor, but generally welcoming.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:19 AM on September 9 [8 favorites]


Oh also since I've gotten into amateur microscopy, I notice every mud puddle, duck pond, interesting flower and dead bug. CAN I LOOK AT THAT REAL BIG??? ARE THERE PROTOZOA? Going for a hike or bike ride with me basically sucks for everyone else as I stop every three feet.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:22 AM on September 9 [6 favorites]


I notice when people use the phrase 'begs the question' incorrectly.

And every single time my inner descriptivist and my inner prescriptivist get into a fight about what counts as an incorrect use of language. I know. I know. Yet, still, I can't help but get a twinge at 'begs the question' being used to introduce a question.
posted by meese at 9:41 AM on September 9 [9 favorites]


I often notice where people in historical fiction are situated in history, which can be distracting and a little depressing. For instance, I am always aware that the little boys in Edwardian children's books are likely going to die in World War I. I couldn't watch that fun Spanish soap Cable Girls, because I kept trying to figure out which way each of the characters was going to go in the Spanish Civil War.

I am terrible at ignoring Muzak, especially if I know the song. My mind automatically goes to the lyrics, and then I think about the lyrics. In general, I'm bad at tuning out things in my environment, but that's a reflection of my sensory processing issues.

I notice patterns in numbers. I work with students who have ID numbers, and I get happy when one of them has a number that is a palindrome, alternates the same characters, or something like that.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:48 AM on September 9 [5 favorites]


I've done the same thing with interesting-looking sewage treatment plants.

yassssssss
posted by barchan at 10:09 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Oh, man. "Begs the question," is a hang up for me. First I notice it. Then I momentarily judge the person who said it. Then I spend several minutes feeling like a jerk for having done so and yelling at myself for being a prescriptivist idiot.

I know that the formal definition is based on a very questionable translation from Latin in the 1500s. And I genuinely believe that the "incorrect" interpretation makes a lot more sense. (And is both more useful and more used.) In the language we are speaking, the phrase is exactly as reasonable as "demands that we ask," to which nobody could object.

I want very much not to notice or care. . . but, I haven't achieved it yet. My gradschool advisor - among the smartest and most thoughtful people on the planet - went on a "begs the question" tear for a few years. It drove me up the wall every time.
posted by eotvos at 10:10 AM on September 9 [6 favorites]


I deal with watching media with cellphones and computers by just taking it on faith that these are things that have taken the narrative place of the greek chorus.

Also, I know that radio waves don't work in FictionWorld the way they do here. (Cellphone at the bottom of a missile silo? SURE, MULDER AND SCULLY, THAT'S LEGIT.)
posted by rmd1023 at 10:12 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Oh, and count me as another person who will spot dogs (and - if reasonable - attempt to at least acknowledge/interact with them at least via eye contact) and cats.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:16 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


I worked in a shoe store once, so I often look at people's shoes. If I notice you wearing interesting/novelty socks I will probably comment on it. (I always wear my novelty socks with shoes/outfits that don't reveal them so I rarely receive such comments myself.)

I notice which of my students are left-handed. It might be a habit I picked up when I started out teaching lab techniques in freshman chem labs - my first question to a student was always "are you right- or left-handed?"
posted by invokeuse at 10:33 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I'm fascinated by raptors, so I'm always subconsciously scanning the sky. Ill trying to get my wife to look at, for example, a juvenile bald eagle soaring above and she's always like "you're driving! Watch the road!". I am probably insufferable. On a side note, there have been lots of ospreys lately and not as many eagles as usual. And I have seen the same small hawk (Cooper's? Sharp-shinned?) two days in a row in my backyard.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:54 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


ArbitraryAndCapricious - pretty much any time I look at 20th century photographs in a museum, I find myself mentally figuring out how old the subjects would be today and what's the chance they're still alive.

Dog-and-cat-in-window watching: if I wave to a window cat, it usually turns away in disgust. If I wave to a window dog, it usually jumps up and down and starts barking - probably saying "go away" but I like to imagine it's "I'm so glad to see you".
posted by moonmilk at 10:56 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


A lot of people that others describe to me as "charismatic" wind up giving me the screaming fantods.

Ugh, same here. "Charming" people, too, even if they're a decent person. I have a family member who is a genuinely good person, but I find it difficult to be around them because it constantly feels like they aren't being "real."

Not related to jobs or hobbies, but: CGI in general. It sticks out like a sore thumb. (Probably I am not noticing good CGI? But I see this is in movies with massive budgets.)

More TV/movie stuff: one of the very few surgery scenes that looked real to me was in Steel Magnolias. Trivia notes say the staff and hospital were real, so I suspect the surgery was, too. Most surgery scenes drive me up the wall, especially with their lack of sterile technique.

Related, I used to notice and catch anything about to drop or on its way down. This squares not at all with my husband's tendency to put things in precarious positions.

Oh, also, blood in TV and movies. And brains. It just looks silly.
posted by moira at 11:50 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I sew, so I notice seams. Uneven, going uphill, thick and thin stitches. It drives me crazy because I'm not wealthy so I shop at cheap stores and damn Old Navy is terrible at sewing consistently. And linings! so many things should have a lining and don't! Wool pants, blazers, bags. I bet in 5 years most of my clothes will be made by me because I notice shoddy sewing more everyday.
posted by shmurley at 12:10 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


How buildings are put together or falling apart; blame my liking for renovation shows. I'll look at a wall, see how something's laid out, realize that the wall was done 16" on center and there was an opening that was closed up, etc.

Cameras, in general. Professional still photography gear, sure, but also security cams.

Pens. Oh my, yes. I'll notice if a fountain pen shows up in a shot, and if it's anachronistic to the setting (it usually is).
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 12:30 PM on September 9


I'm pondering me, but in the meantime, my wife was in the Army for 11 years (National Guard + regular), then a correctional officer for 4 and a jailer for 3. Her situational awareness is through the roof. When she says someone is giving us the stinkeye, I believe her. If she ever says "duck", I will without question.
posted by joycehealy at 12:33 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Hi emmling, I hope the aftermath of the typhoon has settled down at your end. We're actually going to see Mr. Children, down in Wakayama. Not 100% my thing, but I don't dislike them either (some of the videos are super gorgeous too), and since my husband shows up at my orchestra concerts I figure it's the least I can do.
posted by huimangm at 1:48 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I recognize people with "invisible" disabilities.
posted by Jesse the K at 1:51 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


Local papers are the worst, but it also happens in actual books. "Photo: Wikipedia" hurts to see, even if it's way better than a complete lack of attribution.

I've noticed even large papers are not only neglecting attribution, but even cutlines or captions on the photos: a story will run of how John Doe, age 38, of Elmdale Crescent was assaulted and is in the hospital in critical condition, while Richard Roe, 41, of Smithville was spotted fleeing the scene and is now sought for questioning. Above is a picture of a fortyish man. Victim? Suspect? Victim's brother, quoted in the story? Just something from gettyimages? Who's to say?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:12 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


And as with a few mefites above, I have toiled as a copy editor, so jarring usage often hits me like a frying pan in a slapstick comedy.

A now-defunct restaurant in Ottawa used to have a cheesecake which was promoted on the menu with the promise that diners would find this dessert, made with both regular and chocolate milk, '"utterly" delicious' (with heavy quotation marks around "utterly," while quotation marks appeared nowhere else on the menu). I looked at that for a while without enlightenment and at last concluded that someone had trotted out the hoary old dismally tired "utterly/udderly" pun and someone else with a spell-check had changed it to its current nonsensically sensical state.

I accept that other people often don't get my jokes. It becomes enervating when they don't get their own.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:16 PM on September 9 [10 favorites]


I notice dogs with orthopedic issues. Luxating patellas, crucial ligament tears, hip dysplasia, etc. I'm not a vet, just a hypochondriac who has moved on to dogs.
posted by HotToddy at 2:37 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


I've done the same thing with interesting-looking sewage treatment plants.

I'm always looking for utility infrastructure. I can identify the voltage of overhead wires by sight, when I'm in other countries I look for differences in how they do things (the difference in voltage level drives a completely different primary/distribution design in the US than we use in Europe).

I read a great book about "reading" the English landscape last year and now I'm constantly looking around to see if I can tell which direction is South based on the trees - trees which are by themselves and not shaded will tend to stretch their branches horizontally on the South side and vertically on the North side to catch the most sun.
posted by atrazine at 3:07 PM on September 9 [4 favorites]


I get really distracted by musicians in movies, even in the background, who are obviously faking their playing. This is especially true for string instruments. I get that it's hard to not make sound on set when they're recording dialogue scenes and the music will be added later, but when I see that the bow is a foot away from the string, it's really annoying! Other instruments can often mask it a little better but it can still be quite obvious. Even worse when the "musician" does not actually know how to play that instrument and are doing some really random miming. Also, I HATE seeing terrible conducting! What the hell is Prof Flitwick doing with the choir in Prisoner of Azkaban? Clearly they just gave him a baton and said, "wave it around."
posted by acidnova at 3:15 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


My father was a Vietnam Vet and he would occasionally complain about general inaccuracies in military procedure as depicted in media. I remember watching "The Thin Red Line" with him and at one moment he just burst out with, "they are marching way too close together! I understand that the director wanted to get them all in the same shot, but still..."
posted by acidnova at 3:19 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I always notice typos in published copy, on the web and in print.
Non-curly apostrophes and quote marks always stick out to me, especially when there's a mix of straight and curly.
I always enjoy noticing the interplay between musicians on stage. The glances, the facial expressions, the hand signals, the kidding around, the band member everyone else knows has had more to drink.
I always notice autotuned vocals.
posted by emelenjr at 3:39 PM on September 9


I've played cello since kindergarten, so I also notice when any string musicians are faking their playing.

I always notice double-barreled survey questions, which happen far more than they should. I also notice poorly written survey questions, which led to an interesting conversation at my doctor's office:

Survey: Do you ever feel sad?
Me: Absolutely.
My doctor: So, it says here that you feel sad.
Me: Yes, I experience the full range of human emotion, thank you and good day.

I'm very tuned into accents, linguistic idiosyncrasies, typos, punctuation errors, kerning, etc. I am completely oblivious non-verbal information, which leads to super fun conversation with my partner:

Me: Hey, did you rearrange the furniture in the living room?
Her: Uhhhhhh, yes? A month ago????????????

or

her: WHAT THE FUCK, WHY HAVEN'T YOU SWEPT UP ALL THE CAT LITTER ON THE FLOOR?!
me: There was cat litter on the floor????
her: * shows me the cup and a half of cat litter she's swept off the floor *
me: huh. weird.
posted by coppermoss at 3:42 PM on September 9 [4 favorites]


I love this question. I notice bad painted woodgrain or marble in life and onscreen. Careless repair work drives me up the wall (this is both from having worked doing precise scenic art work for a decade and living in schmutzy NYC apartments for the same). I notice the horn section every time they have an exciting moment in a soundtrack and almost HAVE to say "French horn" under my breath, even though I know "horn in F" is the right name. I also notice bad violin playing. I notice quickly if people are having a bad day and trying to hide it. Lately, I notice dead Juul pods all over the place.

I super don't notice what people are wearing, except for general color, usually.
posted by lauranesson at 3:51 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I work with people living with mental illness and/or addiction so I can spot people in mental or physical distress almost immediately, even when it's quite subtle. Bonus: I can tell when it's about to go off because I have to deal with fights a lot. So much body language learned spending 12 hours a shift watching CCTV.
posted by moneyjane at 4:07 PM on September 9 [7 favorites]


I am one of two people (in the world, most likely) who noticed that Saturn's rings in Interstellar were upside down. (The Sun was shining on the north side of the rings and the camera showed the south side of the rings, but they pasted on the lit side of the rings, not the dark side.) Guess what we both do for a living?
posted by BrashTech at 4:09 PM on September 9 [6 favorites]


Primate-related inaccuracies are rife and annoying. In addition to just generally feeling like primates should not be in movies and TV, if you're going to go ahead and have them, you should have them accurately. The US never sent a capuchin monkey to space, Night At The Museum. They're just easier to source and train in Hollywood than infant chimpanzees. So much of that movie is CGI, why they didn't decide to CGI a space chimp is beyond me.

I also enjoy catching where they do (or do not) switch out body doubles in ballet movies starring non-dance people. Center Stage has some particularly egregious ones - my favorite is in the ballet class when everyone is supposed to be amazed by Maureen's adagio and she's clearly not doing anything but the port de bras. And, in the same class, it's pretty clear when Aesha Ash steps in for Zoe Saldana.

---

I'm going to a Rosh hashanah service tomorrow at a secular leftist Jewish organization in Boston. I've had a hard time finding a Jewish place (or even deciding if I want to find a Jewish place), but this seems like it might be what I'm looking for. We'll see. L'shana tova and a sweet new year to everyone!
posted by ChuraChura at 4:10 PM on September 9 [11 favorites]


I'm hobbyist-ly interested in urban planning/urban history (I am the world's current leading expert on Peoria streetcars, mainly since the guy who wrote the actual book died and I appear to be the only person who's read it! I've been interviewed!), so when I'm in residential neighborhoods or small-city downtowns, I'm always reading the history of the development in its infrastructure and asking questions that ceaselessly irritate my local hosts. "Was this a streetcar suburb?" "Uh ... I don't know?" "It's just this sort of long blocks with short crosses is often indicative of streetcars, and the location of the power lines suggests they were once hooked up across the road, plus the oldest houses seem to be 1920s ..." Or I'll be like, "So it looks like probably this neighborhood originally built in the 40s, but had a wave of redevelopment in the 80s? Did they do your water mains then or is it still the original 1940s pipes?" or "Is this stone locally quarried? I see it on a lot of commercial buildings." or "Was this working farm that was subdivided? Is that the original farmhouse on the corner?"

(Basically I think barchan and I would have a lot of fun at parties.)

Very much yes to bad copy editing (due to a few stints as the same, although I've been away from it long enough that it doesn't wreck my day) and to random-ass walls of federal reporters to show someone is a Serious Smart Person who BUYS WALLS OF FEDERAL REPORTERS FOR NO REASON.

After three kids there are a few unsafe practices I reflexively notice without trying to or any desire to, I just am so used to being non-stop alert for child safety. A big one is people putting babies in carseats or bouncy chairs up on counters, which they do a LOT on TV (I assume to keep the baby in the shot) and it drives me crazy. AT LEAST KEEP A HAND ON IT. Also when the chest bar on a carseat is too low. I keep my damn mouth shut about it because parents with babies are low on sleep and don't need to be hassled about imperfect car seat strap placement (God knows when I had babies they were not always perfectly strapped in! You're tired! There's a lot going on!), but occasionally I've quietly scooted it into the correct position when it's all the way down at the crotch, if I can do that without the parent noticing.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 4:13 PM on September 9 [7 favorites]


Oh, on the safety side of things, after 3 years of roller derby and 1 year of EMT experience, I'm pretty good at a) noticing when someone has a concussion and b) immediately spotting a bike/skate/ski/climbing helmet that either doesn't fit or is way too loose. I live on a bike path and the number of children I've seen riding past with ludicrously loose helmets... ugh.
posted by coppermoss at 4:24 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


cairnoflore: As a potter I always check the bottom of handmade pottery. Also the weight of cups and bowls. Bottom heavy is not good.

There's another whole lecture in me on pottery...

When I do craft fairs, you can always tell the other potters because normal people don't care at all what the bottom of the mug looks like... But to a potter we can detrmine firing, thrown vs built, what tools were used and the skill of the potter, all in a glance.

I have a real passion for making perfect mugs. And I have a very strict set of guidelines on what makes a perfect (for me) mug. My wife has one mug she's owned for years that breaks every last one of those guidelines. I hate it irrationally, and hide it in the back of the cabinet, but she loves it and taunts me with it.

Without giving away my entire lecture (I'm available for workshops, classes, boring parties and bar mitzvahs!) the abilty to use a handle either as something to hold the mug with and as something to wrap your hand under while you grip the mug itself is one of the marks of a great mug.

I also always look for finger marks in glazes. Not as imperfections, but because I like to see the hand of the potter. I like to see if I can hold the pot the same way they did when they dipped or poured on the glaze. I have a few pots from the early to mid-twentieth century where I can put my hand on eaxctly the marks of the potter. It makes me smile to actually make that connection to someone long ago. I have one pot that was probably made by a slave in 1840s or 1850 South Carolina, and I can put my hands where theirs were and that still gives me a certain kind of fizz, thinking abot that potter and what all happened to them.

One last semi-related note: Since I always look at the bottom of pots, I occasionally get a surprise. One pot, I found in a junk store marked for a few bucks. Looking at it sitting on the shelf, it's nothing special, just a common stoneware, Albany Slip glazed, jiggered, canning crock, from Ohio, probably. But on the bottom, when the pot was still wet, a potter figured up their wages for the day (they were probably paid by the thrown gallon). I have it in my collection now, and it's another of my favorite pieces.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 4:35 PM on September 9 [10 favorites]


Ooh, and safety! Said former career makes me really notice when workers doing stuff with building/painting chemicals have the right respirators/masks/gloves. They almost never do. That expanding insulating foam is a real nightmare, if I remember. It offgasses for a long time and you're basically never safe using it unless you're in full-on air-providing gear. It's a sensitizer, which means that you can be fine with it for a long time and then your body suddenly can't anymore, and then straight to shock. Never use it if you don't have to.
posted by lauranesson at 4:39 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


Also, non-acetone fingernail polish remover is usually worse for your lungs than acetone. They just sell it 'cause they know that people know acetone is bad to breathe and most people will never read an MSDS. I had to leave a union because I was too into safety and I am also available for parties.
posted by lauranesson at 4:44 PM on September 9 [16 favorites]


I’m an exhibit developer and, therefore, I’m the worst person in the world to go see a museum exhibit with, because I pay too much attention to how the labels are written and how the cases are constructed and accessibility (where are the video captions? There’s not enough contrast in these graphics) and sightlines and exhibit themes and OMG why is that text over there and why is this content hidden over in this corner and was this interpretation blander than it could be to please the board/donor/CEO/development office, etc. I am also a historian, so you can only imagine what else I’m not fun about.
posted by heurtebise at 4:58 PM on September 9 [8 favorites]


I worked for a dishwashing chemical company for around 8 years. One thing I learned was that in fizzy drinks, bubbles only stick to irregular surfaces. Styrofoam cups, for instance, show insane amounts of bubbles sticking to the sides. This makes sense: it's a textured surface.

A glass of cola that is black and looks dead still has carbonation. It's just such so clean, the bubbles have nothing to which to affix themselves. This is good news, as they're saving themselves to enhance your beverage.

When you get a glass of Coca-Cola where the glass shows bubbles all along the insides, that glass is either scuffed or was insufficiently cleaned when it was filled. You can tell which one pretty easily. If you're at a diner and they've served you one of those ancient plastic tumblers, this is fine. It's just scuffed. If you're at a restaurant and that tall rum and coke you've ordered has been served to you in a glass that is sheeted with bubbles... it's a dirty glass.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:59 PM on September 9 [13 favorites]


App Designer - Positive: I really, really appreciate when someone has done something clever with a standard iOS or Android feature that makes it look custom rolled and I will point it out to anyone nearby even if they don't know what the hell I am talking about.

App Designer - Neutral: If an app I'm using crashes, my bug report to the developer is way, way more detailed than what they are probably expecting and may include a screen recording of the issue so they can see what steps they may need to take to reproduce it.

App Designer - Negative: I know exactly what kind of in-app purchase systems companies use to maximize the degree to which users are willing to pay to play vs grind and I still spend a lot of money anyway.

Hobbyist Puppy Friend: I am very good at identifying dog breeds and breed mixes and can point out which aspects of a pupper probably come from which side of its pedigree.

Weird Misophonia Benefit: My hyper hearing allows me to figure out where someone's keys are (or aren't) in their bag with just a shake or two. Sometimes I can get really exact with the depth of the location, too.
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:14 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


I always check the braille in elevators and hotels to see if it's correct. Most of the time it is, but not always.

When I started my current job 11 years ago (which has nothing to do with braille), I noticed that on all three floors of the building, both the women's and men's rooms were marked MEN in braille. I pointed that out to HR at the time. Nothing has been done about it.

Love this thread! :)
posted by Melismata at 5:14 PM on September 9 [12 favorites]


This thread makes me happy. What a neat bunch of people we all are.
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:15 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


I'm a horse nut, and I'm obsessed with people's tack. Why can't you hang your bridle up correctly instead of upside down? Do you have to drag your latigo in the dirt instead of wrapping it up? Why is that nice halter lying on the ground when you take your horse away from the trailer? I see stirrups without stirrup hobble straps, and I want to at least tie a piece of baling twine around the leathers. I have to guard my tongue when I see things that are obvious hazards--the bit on upside down, the driving harness fastened improperly or not fitting right, or the leather that's unoiled, worn, and ready to tear.

Please don't tie your horse up with the bit, or tie to something stupid and movable--like a lawn chair. Don't undo the front cinch before you undo the back cinch and breast collar. Hold on to the reins when you put your foot in the stirrup. Don't let your kids try to walk under my big gelding's belly or hug his hind legs!

I firmly believe if you don't get racked up once in a while, you're probably not riding enough. On the flip side, being slightly paranoid about knowing how many wrecks are waiting to happen has made me and my friends a lot safer. I try to couch my safety suggestions by phasing them as "I once saw an accident where a horse broke his jaw being tied with the bit", or "I was taught to put a Kimberwick bit on facing the other direction." Any more now, if the response is "I always tie my horse like that" or "He goes JUST FINE in that bit"--well, you're on your own.

Did you take all your tack apart and can't remember how it goes back together? Call me, that's my favorite puzzle! Does your equipment need cleaning or your tack room need cleaned and organized? I'm easy to sucker into doing that for you. Want to talk about barn or corral layout? I'm your girl.

And don't let me near a horse with a tangled mane. I just have to start untwisting it.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:24 PM on September 9 [7 favorites]


"I’m an exhibit developer and, therefore, I’m the worst person in the world to go see a museum exhibit with, because I pay too much attention to how the labels are written and how the cases are constructed and accessibility (where are the video captions? "

But sometimes it it's great! My husband and I are both museum people (he directed the state historic preservation agency and oversaw their museums; I was on the board of an organization that built a children's museum), and we were at a tiny local history museum in Mt. Airy, NC, with our kids, and we spent the whole visit going, "This is so well curated! OMG, what a great interactive! Wow, these captions are great!" We saw a couple of the museum's board of directors afterwards (my dad knows them through Rotary or whatever) and they asked how we liked the museum and we were like, "It was so great! OMG! Your exhibit designers are awesome! The children's interactives are amazing! Please pass on to your museum staff that they've done an absolutely amazing job, and we know from museums!" (Especially for a small local museum on a tight budget!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 5:32 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


It seems like the things I notice most are things that irritate me: phony science in TV shows and movies, imperfections (smudges and fingerprints, seam lines and hems that wobble, dishes that don't sit flat on the table, etc), and sounds I can't identify or that don't line up with expectations (I once saw a cigarette boat which was powered by a jet engine and my ears kept insisting "airplane!" while my eyes said "boat!" - that thing bugged the crap out of me). Bad rhythm also makes me crazy and I absolutely cannot tune it out, so if you're going to lead a chant at a march please keep the beat or give the mic to somebody else.

The flip (less tetchy) side of this is that I notice things that seem out of place, like coins on the sidewalk or architectural oddities, which makes walking around a lot more fun. I also notice blips in my data at work, which sometimes turn out to be pretty interesting, so I guess there are occasional advantages to being easily irritated.
posted by Quietgal at 5:42 PM on September 9


I notice when decor has changed. People like that. I also am good at noticing birds and animals outside, also enjoyable. Like Eyebrows, two kids in I excel at spotting safety risks and kids about to get hurt on something poorly designed.
I really really notice people who don’t wash their hands or have unsafe food prep, and I judge them hard. More on the hand washing because OMG people this is preschool level hygiene here, but food safety problems may really just be lack of education. Unless you’re a professional. (Yes I’m an excellent party guest why do you ask.)
posted by john_snow at 5:50 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


How strange, I just read a book in this.

"On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes" is what is says. Author Alexandra Horowitz walks around her block with eleven different people, and relates what they notice. From Booklist:
It is charming to take a walk with Horowitz. Engaging, amusing, and relatable, the psychology professor guides readers through 11 urban walks in the company of various experts. Beyond simply looking, this is about what makes up the world around us and the foundations of human perception. Horowitz brings the same attention to the human brain as she brought to our canine companions in Inside of a Dog (2010). She makes cognitive functioning eminently understandable by unraveling the role expectation plays in limiting what we see. The experts she walks with, from scientists to a toddler and a dog, reveal the underpinnings of a wide range of urban phenomena, such as the uncanny ability of rats to avoid traps. The descriptions of the walks are detailed but not overlong, with just enough information to give a taste of a geologist’s or typographer’s expertise. Even when relying only on your own inexpert eyes, you will look at the world with more attention after reading these fascinating essays, though it’s likely you still won’t be able to find millennia-old worm tracks or recognize the fishlike behavior of pedestrians. --Bridget Thoreson
I highly recommend this.
posted by Marky at 5:57 PM on September 9 [19 favorites]


As a Shakespeare text coach, I notice when civilians are misquoting Shakespeare.

I also notice when actors onstage aren't quite 'in' their text: when they're still speaking it as though someone else wrote it, not quite as though it's their own.

Miswordings sting a bit. Even after they're off book, actors should keep going back to their text. Otherwise, memory holes get covered by miswordings, and miswordings then become habit. In verse, especially in Shakespeare, this isn't acceptable: miswordings make the meaning less clear to your audience.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:04 PM on September 9 [4 favorites]


L'shana tova and a sweet new year to everyone!

You too!

I can tell when people typing on a screen aren't really typing words (in English) or when the typing sounds aren't matching what the fingers are doing. I can tell within a split second if the "software" they are using is real or was some generic "email" or "browser" made for the tv/movie.

I can usually tell if a tree has a bird in it and if I wait long enough I can usually find the bird (and often but not always identify it but I can usually tell if it's one I haven't seen before)

I can tell, without really noticing, whether all the clocks in a house match (i.e. if I spend a day in a house that has a microwave, thermostat and bedroom alarm clock, I'll know if they all tell the same time even if I don't look at them all at once).

I know how many steps there are on all my staircases because I'm often navigating them in the dark (for fun!) and I count them. I can walk around any house I've lived in completely in the dark (assuming no one has moved something in the interim. not_on_display can not understand why I flip out when he leaves his shoes in the hallway "Why didn't you turn on a light?")

I can tell high- medium- and low-end interior woodwork and fixture hardware, etc on houses but I can't tell types of wood apart (and wish I could)

I'm hypervigilant as sort of a sensory trait so I notice a LOT of stuff all the time (noises, where everyone is in a room, water sources, whether everything is open or shut, where all the open containers/drinks are, sources of drafts) and some of that I am working on noticing less. It's challenging!
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:19 PM on September 9 [7 favorites]


I'm a serious hobby potter and notice things about, say, ancient pottery in museums that others wouldn't. I'm just delighted that I can look at an artifact from way in the past and guess that the person had a stronger right hand or didn't wedge their clay thoroughly or made an early mistake in centering.

Probably just from growing up in a rural-ish area, I notice plants and animals and can identify things like flowers and raptors from the window of a moving car.

And my job is in injury prevention, so I notice hazards EVERYWHERE. I'm not terribly paranoid about getting hurt, but I notice that someone might.
posted by centrifugal at 6:20 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Oh, I also get super annoyed when people pronounce the word "timbre" as "timber." No, you are not chopping down trees; you are talking about the quality of sound! You don't have to say it in a French accent but it needs to at least be "tamber" damn it!
posted by acidnova at 6:34 PM on September 9


I notice hummingbirds, even when they're sitting still and quiet in leafy trees. This is a fairly new ability.

I'm also pretty good at spotting animals in general, though not often other birds, unless the birds are pretty big.

Copyeditor for over a decade so yes on typos and bad grammar, written or spoken. Took me a long time to stop being elitist/judgmental about it.

I notice shifts in group...vibes? There's probably a better word. Like I can tell when someone is having a reaction to something someone else has said, though I try not to assume I understand the cause of the reaction unless I know the people fairly well. I'm realizing it's part of why my new job is stressful right now -- lots of people reacting to new boss, who's kind of oblivious, and I'm too new to the team to know what they're reacting to.

I could not in a million years describe where everything is in my home but I can tell immediately if something's been moved.

And yes, CGI! I am willing to believe that there is really good CGI that I can't spot but really, blockbuster movies all seem like they flip into animation in those sequences and it totally throws me out of the moment.
posted by lazuli at 7:48 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I am a data person, and I notice bad/confusing/misleading infographics.

May I introduce you to /r/dataisugly?
posted by Jpfed at 8:18 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


My best friend just pushed me back in here to assert her LEAST favorite noticing ability of mine which is that I ALWAYS know where spiders are. Always. I can sense the presence of a black widow and go looking for it with bizarre accuracy and it freaks everyone the fuck out, me included, because I don't like spiders. AND YET SOMEHOW asfdfdnjslgnd T_T
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:18 PM on September 9 [7 favorites]


I know how many steps there are on all my staircases because I'm often navigating them in the dark (for fun!) and I count them. I can walk around any house I've lived in completely in the dark (assuming no one has moved something in the interim.

I said something to my wife last week about the eleven steps from the basement to the kitchen and she stopped, looked at me, walked up the steps counting them, and asked how I knew that. I said, “you know that’s how my brain works,” but I thought, “we’ve owned this house for five years. How do you not know that there are eleven steps down to the basement and twelve up to the landing and three more to the second floor?”

My mom keeps adding clutter to the house I grew up in. Makes getting a glass of water in the middle of the night really dangerous.
posted by fedward at 8:36 PM on September 9


"On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes"

That reminds me of the time my then-wife and I went camping in an area that was unfamiliar to us and it just so happened that her boss and his wife were there as well. One afternoon we all went on a hike together; they (who had been there multiple times before) spent the whole hike pointing out to us the various plants, trees, and flowers along with a history of the area, that we would have been totally unaware of if we'd done the hike by ourselves. It was a lot of fun and I was impressed with their level of knowledge.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:46 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Things I notice more because of my interests ?

Hummingbirds. I know their songs and calls and the flutter hum of their wings nearby. Beause of that, I see them when I hear them. Because I know where they like to perch.

And I spot them in flight from a block away.

But then this is true of any bird whose song I have learned. But hummingbirds are so tiny -- it makes me realize how much we miss until we pay attention.

And how is it we can see a person walking two blocks away and can tell whether It's a man or woman ? That, too, is amazing when you think about it.
posted by y2karl at 8:53 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I'm another who notices typos a lot; also doesn't really bother me, but they do jump out at me.

Like barchan, I notice when people are watering sidewalks, but mostly because I'm a pedestrian and I have to walk through the watering. It especially annoys me when it happens in parks. Hey, parks people! This is your job! Water the plants, not the pedestrians!

Purely due to a hobby (completely amateur, insufficiently-informed interest in architecture), I notice the handful of architectural features I can name: cool soffits, spandrels, and cornices. Plus cool ornamentation of any kind. And I love noticing similar buildings - often there are two or three or four buildings in a row that were done by the same builder or architect, and because of changes over time, it's not super obvious that they once looked nearly identical, but it's always a huge delight to me when I notice the similarities.

Great topic, aniola - thanks to you! and to all the wonderful commenters!
posted by kristi at 9:20 PM on September 9 [4 favorites]


I used to collect fountain pens and it drives me up the wall when films use an anachronistic pen model. I also usually know the ballpark of what they spent on the pen, too, so I’m sitting there fuming “You spent 3 grand to GET IT WRONG BY 65 YEARS?!”

But here’s the funnier story. I also used to be a picture framer, and I can pick out frames from the stage set of films easily. I worked for a Los Angeles-based chain for many years and their frames pop up constantly, but I can also tell a lot about the set from the art. Anyway, so once I was watching the X Files with my friend, and there’s a gratuitous, lingering shot of Mulder taking his shirt off...but he’s standing in front of a really nice Hudson River School landscape in a gorgeous water gilded frame, just thousands of dollars’ worth of art in the best and most appropriate frame. Which I remark on, and want to run it back to see— which makes my friend pretty much die laughing, saying “Well, if we needed proof you’re not really into guys, this would be it.”
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:58 PM on September 9 [14 favorites]


I play a lot of Irish traditional music, for the past 5 or 6 years. whenever I learn a new tune (new to me, that is) I start to hear it everywhere. at my local Irish session, on YouTube, on a recording I've had for a while but never caught the tune.... I'm sure it's a form of confirmation bias, but it always surprises me!
posted by gorbichov at 9:58 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


Speaking of music, I just noticed that I just made my 440th comment in MetaTalk. (I have this stupid thought when I approach a notable number of comments in a particular subsite that I'll try to make that 1000th comment (or whatever) extra good. But I always forget and accidentally make it some super-simple thing like "Cool, thanks for posting.".)
posted by Jpfed at 10:30 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


I almost skipped this thread because I thought I didn't have any particular points of notice, but then I thought of a particularly unflattering one:

I am opinionated about how people hold their hands in photos if their arms are extended. Like those "I am being pretty atop a mountain!" poses, or "I am free as a rainbow in this field!" shots, or "I am in a very expensive engagement shoot and the photographer couldn't even cue me to rotate my arms and extend / space my fingers" situations.

Like, it is so nice when dancers get married because they know where their bodies are and the first dance isn't awkward because it's just a foxtrot that they've done thousands of times with each other! And they know how to dip / be dipped so no one looks like they're going to drop the other or hurt their back.

Maybe here's another: I am fully aware that when say, facebook / google / amazon / airbnb "breaks" -- I'm probably just part of the unlucky 1% that some experiment got rolled out to, it'll be reverted soon, and that behind this appliance is a troupe of people, likely too young to get a rental car without their corporate account, just trying their best.
posted by batter_my_heart at 1:49 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Former copy editor, so what all the others said about typos and commas. And unjustified legs of type in newspapers. What I don't notice are photos and ads. My brain tells me there are no wonderful, useful words there, so there's no need to look at those. This does not endear me to my photographer friends.

Thanks for that fascinating, eponysterical, and unsettling information, DirtyOldTown. One restaurant in particular serves me a soft drink that almost can't be seen for the bubbles. How can I tell whether my glass is scuffed or insufficiently clean?
posted by bryon at 4:03 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


Well, rereading your comment, DOT, yeah, look for crud on the glass, that's how.
posted by bryon at 4:06 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


I notice people who are trying not to be noticed because I am much better at it. Once in a great while one will notice that I've noticed and if they say something like "damn you" instead of scurrying away or trying to kill me we end up having a drink on a busy corner while making fun of the amateurs who think nobody notices them.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:26 AM on September 10 [4 favorites]


I've taken a lot of floral arranging classes as a hobby. I've used it to a) outfit my own wedding (kind of stressful, do not necessarily rcommend) and b) identify the flowers in the set dressing of Star Trek: TNG and DS9.

Protea = wacky space plant, evidently.
posted by cage and aquarium at 4:44 AM on September 10 [6 favorites]


I hear details in the sounds of small aircraft flying nearby that I think most people don't.

I do the exact same thing. If we're driving down the highway, I can tell my wife if there's an airport nearby. I can identify some aircraft by sound alone, but most I need to see. Here's a basic primer:

Single engine piston - "angry lawnmower" sound. If it's a high wing (in North America) it's almost certainly a Cessna and very likely a 172. It's pretty difficult to distinguish between them otherwise.

Twin engine piston - much more deep throated "angry lawnmower." Much easier to pick out if the props are slightly out of sync, so there's a little wobble in the sound. Exact identification for me usually is geography dependent (by which I mean nearly every piston twin around here is a Cessna 402 operated by Cape Air, and if you go closer to the Rhode Island shore it's pretty much guaranteed to be a Norman Britten Islander heading to Block Island).

Turboprop - a mix of the lawnmower sound and the screeeee of a jet engine. Single engine is usually a Pilatus, twins are a little harder but probably a King Air or something similar.

Piston helicopter - "angry lawnmower" coupled with a whop-whop-whop sound. Since there is basically one manufacturer of piston helicopters nowadays (Robinson), this is an easy get. The R44 has a longer cabin than then R22.

Turbine helicopter - screeee plus whop-whop-whop. They all look more or less alike to me.

Turbine airplane - I need a decent look at these. Private jets have a few notable features to look for - Gulfstreams have long oval cabin windows which are a dead giveaway, Falcons have 3 engines. You can narrow down airliners based on the livery. 737s have very unique "squashed" engine inlets. The Dreamliner and 747 are obviously very distinctive. For the other Boeings and Airbuses, it's a bit harder to distinguish unless you know what to look for. Regional jets I tend to pick out by engine location (by the tail is usually a CRJ and on the wing is usually an Embraer) and livery.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:26 AM on September 10 [3 favorites]


I notice bees everywhere and how much and what kind of forage for bees is available in any given area. Not a particularly useful skill, but fun nevertheless.

Having grown up with irresponsible and unstable parents, I notice everyone's emotional state around me to make sure no one is going to spontaneously combust. Not nearly as bad as I used to be, but still, always aware. I also notice spelling errors in everything. Zipping by on a chyron, on billboards and store windows and on papers. Drives me crazy.
posted by Sophie1 at 6:46 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


I have some cool ones as a result of working as a cook when I was younger: I'm pretty good at timing a bunch of dishes or components of a dish to be ready at the same time, and I am also pretty good at telling by sound when something needs to be stirred/flipped/is about to burn/etc. even if I'm across the room doing something else and can't see it.

Trauma-related hypervigilance also comes with a lot of pretty annoying superpowers, as others have noted above. I am always extremely aware of where other people are in a space in relation to me (this one was actually also really useful in kitchens, where you're working in close quarters with a bunch of other people and knives and fire!).
posted by ITheCosmos at 8:38 AM on September 10


After my first few months working in wireless, I became incapable of not noticing antennas everywhere, no matter how tastefully disguised. It's a really boring superpower, but kind of fun in what it tells me about places I visit.

Problems with bicycle infrastructure are really easy for me to spot, but I'm working on improving my ability to spot problems with pedestrian infrastructure like poorly-designed curb cuts. Once you start looking for beg buttons that require you to leave the sidewalk or reach around to the other side of a pole to trigger them, you'll never stop seeing them.

Also, every time someone refers to an adult woman as a "girl." Especially noticeable and annoying in a professional context.
posted by asperity at 9:24 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


I had to read the entirety of the National Labor Relations Act and some workplace safety law as part of doing some union organizing, and now I am basically physically incapable of not noticing a bunch of labor law violations. It's pretty bad, people are like "Oh man they did this thing at work" and I'm like "have you considered filing a grievance? What about OSHA?"
posted by corb at 9:44 AM on September 10 [8 favorites]


Oh man, where to start?
I notice stuff, and always have.
IRL:
Birds - their song, calls, flight patterns, etc. I have stood in a parking lot watching a pair of ravens fly over quorking away - and nobody else pays any attention (which of course drives me crazy)!
Windows - especially 'bad' ones that have replaced originals in older homes. I get sad when I see cheap vinyl sliders on an old craftsman home, it changes so much about a home, and sliders are just...don't do them, please. I get unreasonably angry when I see a fairly nice new home, and the owner cheaped out on windows and went with sliders - they really ruin the line so often, and will likely not be in good working order in ten years. grrrr
Dogs, cats, animals in general, especially in an urban environment. And of course livestock (rural) - I have to say "nameofanimal" when we drive by (so "cows" or "horses").
I'm also a bit of a peeper, in that, if I'm walking down the street, and your drapes are open, I'll probably take a look (not go up to the house, but def slow down my walk and gaze - especially if there's nice/interesting art or architecture to look at).
I also notice trees, especially when they are badly trimmed. I get very sad when I see a large tree get topped - that poor tree is going to be sick the rest of its life, and die a lingering death.
At the thrift shop - my superpower is being able to find the luxe fabric on nearly any rack. I've found Hermes scarves, handwoven llama throws, Italian designer cashmere jacket, Frette linens etc at a glance. I really miss the finer fabric of eras gone by, so much of what is on the rack at thrift shops now is just crap from Target/Sears/Zara/H&M, and won't hold up any time at all.
On film/tv:
Interiors - especially trim, windows (obscure/opaque glass, what's the pattern, stained glass), light fixtures, even china and silverware.
The clothes on the characters - I especially like when it's a period piece about non-wealthy people, and their wardrobe is appropriately limited. I also notice fabric/findings to see if they are appropriate to the period/garment.
Also, birds - any time it is filmed in the US West, I guarantee you'll hear a hawk "scream" - which is actually pretty unusual in that area, but not if you believe the movies. Lately, we've been watching a lot of TV from the UK, and the background bird du jour seems to be ravens. Pretty sure they are not as ubiquitous as it sounds.
posted by dbmcd at 10:20 AM on September 10


It's a kind of game I play in my brain whenever I go to a restaurant, I imagine what would happen if ninjas came into the restaurant and started attacking

I totally used to do this when I was a kid and I'd be bored at the restaurant when my parents took us out to dinner with other grownups. My main thing was to rate restaurants based on how cool of a James Bond shootout you could have. I still remember a faux-Mexican place that had a big central courtyard with a chandelier and a fountain, plus lots of low walls and doorways everywhere.

I tend to notice waste - especially energy waste since I work in energy efficiency, but other kinds (water, food) as well.

I used to be an energy infrastructure nerd (annoying my wife by identifying whether a power plant was coal, gas, or what). Then my brother gave me a copy of this book, and now I'm a more generalized infrastructure dork (though I specialize in energy since I work for a utility).
posted by nickmark at 10:28 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


llama throws

I thought that sport had been banned...
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:30 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


suelac: There was a thing that went around Twitter this week claiming that it was the LAST CHANCE OMG TO TELL THE GOVERNMENT not to frack in the California desert. And I looked at it, and it was a frelling scoping notice. That's not the last chance to do anything, it's the start of the environmental review process. Pfeh.

Nothing grabs the attention of non-planners and environmentalists like "NOTICE: YEARS-LONG PLANNING PROCESS ABOUT TO START! GET INVOLVED! GET HYPE!" ;)

In my prior job, I was a land use planner who did site visits to ensure plans complied with local regulations, and then I expanded to get involved with grading permits. I'd get interested in construction work, but more than anything, I'd get interested if I saw grading, because I would usually go back to the office and see if someone had an active permit for that work, because an uncontrolled grading project is a mess for everyone, not just the property owner.

My current work is in transportation planning of various sorts, so I pay more attention to larger trucks (freight planning) and when people say "car accident" when they mean "car crash," because accident implies a lack of fault. Oops! I accidentally texted while driving, my bad!


barchan: It's mostly due to growing up in an agricultural community where water is a really big concern, but I notice water waste everywhere all the time, especially people "watering" the sidewalk because they couldn't be bothered to set their sprinklers right or watering their lawn in the middle of the day.

One of the remaining twitchy habit from my landscape architecture education is my dislike for useless lawns and overspray. Useless lawns are grassy areas that are too small or too steep to play on, or worse, places where they discourage people from walking on them. IT'S GRASS - THAT'S THE POINT. Otherwise, maintenance people are spending a lot of time to maintain, and someone is spending serious money to water, a swath of short, green plants.

But if you have lawn, water it properly! Really, water anything properly. I had a botany professor who was against timed watering systems, because it allows you to be lazy and not consider the current condition of your plants, and I really took to that notion.


Also, I'm only a casual type formatting obsesser, because I'll miss a number of things, but I'm picky about consistency, particularly in notes and outlines. Do you use the same bullet or numbering hierarchy? Do you use consistent hierarchical structure? Do you use colons, dashes and capitalization the same way? If not, WHY?


I also take a lot of pictures of clouds, though I'm not great about sharing them, so I have a hoarded collection of digital photos, like some weird 21st century Smaug.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:57 AM on September 10 [3 favorites]


I posted a picture of the (very photogenic) kugel I made on Twitter and it was added to a moment (oy) because that is a thing that happens. I've had enough run-ins with Nazi Twitter to be unhappy about having Jewish things about me broadcast beyond my normal spheres, but so far all that's happened is I sent a British lady the recipe I use because she thought it looked tasty.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:31 PM on September 10 [6 favorites]


I can’t watch theatrical productions without looking for movement in the offstage sightlines.

HAIL COMRADE.

Also - if something small goes awry with a theatrical production, but it gets fixed quickly, and it's the kind of thing that most audience members wouldn't know if they weren't looking for that kind of thing? I know. ....And my heart goes out to the stage manager and I cheer a tiny bit inwardly when they fix it. I also notice if the stage is a complete and total mess when the show ends because I know who is going to have to clean it up (the play Lieutenant of Innishmore ends with the stage strewn with fake blood, cat food, spilled milk, cereal and a crapton of other stuff, and when I saw a production I was very tempted to walk up to the stage as the rest of us were leaving to shake the stage crew's hands and wish them well.)

....I've been delving into classic film for the first time ever, really - like, the Film Canon - and after a year or so of it I'm starting to actually notice cinematography as, like, a Thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:17 PM on September 10


I notice village noticeboards (so, I guess they work) and peruse them for news of upcoming events. Especially shows, fetes, competitions and carnivals. Which, in turn, means I notice cakes. A few examples from this weekend gone, at such a show advertised on their local village noticeboard, being this particular chocolate cake, this carrot cake, a cadbury-finger oriented entry, a cake with a nice topping, a magnificent cake in a competition so good it only came third (Mary Berry would struggle to win anything here), a formidable chocolate cake, and the top of a cake so astonishing it was near-impossible to photograph all of it.

At the same show I also noticed vegetables which everyone, including you looking at the pictures, should take very seriously. Because noticing things is a serious business I SAID SERIOUS.
posted by Wordshore at 2:31 PM on September 10 [5 favorites]


I notice unnecessary stairs or places that are needlessly difficult to access for people with nonstandard physical abilities (IE, places where there is one step up to the front door, but the ramp entrance is around the side of the building behind an odd outcropping and takes you into a weird back cramped hallway instead of a foyer. Why not just put the ramp in the front!? Gah)

I’m able bodied but I studied universal design for a bit in college, and this has always stuck with me. Stairs are hard for everyone! Why make things harder than they need to be?
posted by samthemander at 5:32 PM on September 10 [5 favorites]


As others have also said, workplace safety violations often stand out once you've had an training in why a particular practice is dangerous. There's a lot of unsafe working conditions around, a lot of cheap fixes that endanger people.

Also, from working in a liquor store, I'm always paying attention to the drinks in film and tv, even when they turn them so you can't see the labels if they're not paid placement, you can often still tell what they're drinking, especially when it's something distinctive and common, like Jack Daniels or some brands of beer.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 6:53 PM on September 10 [3 favorites]


I grew up in an urban area with high levels of property crime, and securing/obscuring our belongings to avoid having things boosted from car/house/yard was a constant concern. As a result, whenever I walk the dog around our neighborhood, I end up casually casing other people’s houses. It’s amazing how many people leave garage doors open and unattended, new computer/gaming/electronics boxes out next to the recycling, curtains constantly open so you can see the entire media setup in their living room, tools out in yard or car, newspapers piled up when on vacation, evidence of gun ownership (one of the most popular items to steal) by way of NRA bumper stickers or even one guy with a gun safe in the constantly open garage, etc.

Umm, but this isn’t related to my work or hobbies, honest...
posted by Wavelet at 7:12 PM on September 10 [5 favorites]


I notice mylar balloons. They float up and away from you, then they blow away into the wild blue yonder. Well, that yonder is often the mountains I'm out riding in, and I see those fucking things everywhere. Only a very small percentage can be reached; many are too high up, or too far down, or on the other side of a canyon or other impasse. They're easy to notice in nature. Not many things in nature are as shiny and permanent as a mylar balloon.

In terms of being trained to look for things, as a part of my job I get to look at a lot of birth certificates. I can usually tell if you were a Caesarean section delivery, or if there were complications with your birth.

I notice when you ask how I am but only as a greeting not because you're curious.
posted by carsonb at 9:07 PM on September 10 [4 favorites]


I will touch every piece of clothing I see in a store and feel the fabric/texture/blend. I won't hesitate to fondle your jacket zipper because the seam is interesting.

I remember things about people - except their names - I last talked to a guy at work 4-5 months ago and he mentioned he lived near a tulip farm. I asked him last week how the tulips were and he panicked like I was stalking him. Oops.

This probably drifts into pet peeve territory but I constantly notice that drivers in Portland, OR, don't put on their turn signals until the light changes to green and that they often leave a car-length or more between them and the car in front of them at stoplights.
posted by bendy at 11:24 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]


I notice and remember without conscious effort people's preferences and needs. I work in event management and look after VIPs.
Tbh I am not sure what was first - noticing what each person likes or drifting into looking after VIPs. I notice eg how an elderly man prefers to sit, and which is his good ear without it being very obvious. What type of beverage they enjoy. Small talk topics.
I store in my mind stuff like our guests preferred forms of address, seating preferences, which chair eg a person requires for their bad back, food likes, allergies, names of partners and spouses, airlines, assistants, health issues, diets, friedships, etc. I don't write it down as I would not want anyone to find these private observations.

I notice spelling and pronounciation of names, academic or other titles and can get quite upset if I see others being careless about this.

Also I work a lot with restaurants and caterers, and notice how the staff is treated by the managers, cleanliness, service quality, politeness. I tend to tip very generously (my husband says too much) because I am quite keenly aware of the extremely hard labour involved i a nice restaurant experience.

For a previous job I used to check out hotels all over Europe - so I notice quality of bedding, sheets, matresses, dirt (lift the matress, the grossest stuff is between the matresses), towels, quality of TP, toiletries, breakfast choices, overall cleanliness, curtains, carpeting (disgusting stuff), grouting, amenities (especially quality of minibar items), reception staff, etc.

Another thing I notice is kerning, fonts, graphic design, printing quality, paper quality as this is my original training, graphic design. I learned it and worked in graphic desing and magazine layout before digital became a thing, so in another era altogether. We learned how draw letters and position them, and I still have a very keen sense of positioning and clarity in design.

Basically I am old and did a lot of things and notice stuff no longer relevant. I rarely ever tell I am a graphic designer by training because this profession changed so drastically.
posted by 15L06 at 1:31 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]


Another thing I notice is true antiques. I grew up in my grandmother's house, until age 10. Her house was filled with antique furniture, paintings, dishes, etc., and somehow I absorbed the look and feel of a true antique as we actually used the furniture daily. And even after we moved my mother continued to restore furniture and I helped and learned, and still can tell even 40 years on, also if it is restored by a pro or badly done.
Also, age, worth and provenance of said furniture and art was a constant topic in the household, and one or other of my aunts or my mother and grandmother restored them and often sold it on. Most of them still work in restoring furniture and art even now in old age.
posted by 15L06 at 4:48 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


....I've been delving into classic film for the first time ever, really - like, the Film Canon - and after a year or so of it I'm starting to actually notice cinematography as, like, a Thing.

I've been working through Ebert's list of "Great Movies" and now find myself watching the editing way too much. Sometimes I get so caught up in watching the cuts in a film that I lose track of what's going on in the narrative.
posted by octothorpe at 5:04 AM on September 11


Another thing I notice is true antiques.

Oh, I was just reflecting on this. You grew up with them, so you know without looking at a checklist. Another story, since we're here and it's relevant. I have champagne tastes, to the extent that my sister has learned not to ask me to pick out anything from a page of unlabeled choices. Doesn't matter if it's a wedding dress or a couch or a garden hose, I'll pick the expensive one if you ask me which one I like or think would be best without giving me any other information. It's like I have spidey-sense for "price upon request." I don't think I'm a snob, I just have an eye. It made me an effective salesperson back in the day because it was very very easy to sincerely appreciate and advocate for the more expensive framing option.

A friend asked me where the hell that comes from, since I surely did not grow up with money, and I'm pretty sure it's from growing up with regular museum attendance (the Norton Simon and the Pacific Asia Museum used to be free for children and students, and just as important, they have air conditioning in the summer) and with long days of antiquing--my mom's friend was a pro restorer so the moms would go look for deals she could score to restore and resell, and me and her son would hang around and look at stuff and try not to get in trouble. So hours upon hours of staring at fancy stuff.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:11 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


I am another person who can immediately spot antiques, and will also always be drawn to the most expensive thing in the shop. I definitely get it from my parents, although I was also a massive museum nerd as a child.

I definitely have champagne tastes on a fizzy water budget, but I've gotten some lovely things by getting lucky at auction and being willing to repair stuff - that victorian side table held together with duct tape? That's for me
posted by stillnocturnal at 12:57 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


I work in VFX, so any time one image is digitally superimposed onto another, I will look at the edges. It gets pretty tedious sometimes. And it can totally spoil my enjoyment of things! I loved the movie Mirrormask until I got the blu-ray, and the higher resolution showed where all the mistakes were. sigh
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:03 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Ever since somebody told me that the hose on the little fuel pump symbol on a car instrument panel is always on the same side of the car as the filler cap, I've noticed what side the hose on the little fuel pump symbol is as I've switched on the ignition in any car I'm driving for the first time.

Sometimes I wish they'd told every instrument panel designer instead of telling me.
posted by flabdablet at 1:02 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


Re; fuel pump icons... Alas, it's usually but not always the case.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:00 AM on September 12


I used to review books, so I tend to notice awkwardly written tv/movie dialogue and can often be found shouting at the screen, "STOP WITH THE EXPLICATION THROUGH DIALOGUE ALREADY!"
posted by the_blizz at 7:19 AM on September 12


Oh, also! As an illustrator, I can almost always tell how a printed illustration or a work on paper was created (medium, process, special Photoshop tricks, etc).
posted by the_blizz at 7:24 AM on September 12


invokeuse: "
I notice which of my students are left-handed. It might be a habit I picked up when I started out teaching lab techniques in freshman chem labs - my first question to a student was always "are you right- or left-handed?"
"

I always notice left-handedness in movies/TV because it's so rare (and I'm left-handed). I noticed right away that Lady Gaga is left-handed in the trailer for A Star is Born .
posted by octothorpe at 8:22 AM on September 12


The fuel pump symbol has a little arrow next to it. The arrow points to the gas tank side.

◀️⛽️

⛽️ ▶️
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:34 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]


I always notice left-handedness in movies/TV because it's so rare (and I'm left-handed).

My parents are both left-handed and this is like their superpower. They will always notice immediately when someone else is left-handed, and they are incredulous that my sister and I (both righties) never ever notice it. I wonder if they're disappointed to have produced a couple of normies rather than propagating the lefty race.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:40 AM on September 12 [4 favorites]


Side note - because my parents are both left-handed, I am ambidextrous at exactly one task: using a computer mouse. When I was a kid, the mouse just lived on the left side of the keyboard, and it never occurred to me to move it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:46 AM on September 12 [5 favorites]


They will always notice immediately when someone else is left-handed

Canadians living outside of Canada do this but for other Canadians. I know all the secretly-Canadian actors and musicians because of my parents' constant, "They're Canadian, you know!" commentary growing up.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:50 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


Things I notice due to being a little kiddo MH therapist:
People who are really uncomfortable
Little children melting down anywhere and everywhere, even if quietly
The way babies are alert to the world around them
Over-stressed mamas literally everywhere
People who are shady or predatory in some way
How children play
When people are acting one way but feeling something else

Things I notice left over from a decade of being an actor and director:
When actors have zero chemistry
When actors have fantastic chemistry
Stilted acting
If blocking is awkward
When people are acting one way but feeling something else

Things I notice from my work on nervous system regulation:
When people are doing things to try to regulate their bodies like jiggling their leg or moving a certain way
When my own system is going into fight-or-flight or a collapse state
The specific brain functions that are impacted by fight-or-flight or collapse (like, "huh, seems like my language skills are decreasing"
When people are acting one way but feeling something else
posted by fairlynearlyready at 12:51 PM on September 12 [5 favorites]


I went through a historical costume obsession as a kid, and let me tell you, especially in the 80s, historically accurate hair and clothes were very much NOT A THING, at least in the US. I spent a lot of time grumbling at supposedly 50s-era women with 70s/80s hairdos and clothes.
posted by emjaybee at 2:56 PM on September 13


That must be why the mom’s hair in “A Christmas Story” was one of the many elements of that movie that made me feel confused and angry about it. WHY DOES HER HAIR LOOK LIKE MY MOMS WHAT YEAR IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE HOW WHY WHAT WHY
posted by bleep at 3:54 PM on September 13 [1 favorite]


Hair styles - particularly women's hair styles - are one of the biggest ways movies set in other times end up failing to look legit. You can usually tell when a movie was made from the hair styles.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:08 PM on September 13


I always notice left-handedness in movies/TV because it's so rare (and I'm left-handed). I noticed right away that Lady Gaga is left-handed in the trailer for A Star is Born .

Have you seen Looper?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:37 PM on September 13


I have but I managed to miss that. It's fairly unusual to see someone hold a gun with their left hand in movies; surprised that I didn't pick up on that. After Jedi, I've been thinking that I need to rewatch Looper and actually watch Brick so I'll keep an eye on that.
posted by octothorpe at 4:49 AM on September 14


The fuel pump symbol has a little arrow next to it. The arrow points to the gas tank side.

I'm willing to believe that this might be useful information if I ever find myself behind the wheel of a car that has such an arrow. So far, all I've seen is arrowless pump icons. Most of them have the hose on the right hand side. About half the cars I drive have the filler cap on the left hand side.

But regardless of the merits of various pump icon designs, I know perfectly well that my brain is just going to keep noticing what side the hose is on for approximately forever, even though I am now fully aware that doing so is useless. Brains are a bit stupid that way. It's hard to make them stop noticing things.
posted by flabdablet at 6:51 AM on September 14 [2 favorites]


The little arrow has been in every car that I've rented over the last couple decades. It's handy to have that when you're in an unfamiliar vehicle.
posted by octothorpe at 7:11 AM on September 14 [2 favorites]


Roof condition, whether a house has any southern-facing roof planes that would be good candidates for solar, and how easy or difficult it would be to walk around up there.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:07 PM on September 15 [1 favorite]

The little arrow has been in every car that I've rented over the last couple decades. It's handy to have that when you're in an unfamiliar vehicle.
Me too. But, it's also completely insane that automobile manufacturers build two (or, if they sell in the UK commonwealth or Japan and the rest of the world, 4) versions of every vehicle.

When's the last time you saw a gas station that didn't have room for a car to circle and approach from the left? It hasn't happened in the four decades that I've been alive.

That thousands of professional engineers decided printing an arrow on the dashboard of every car was a better idea than deciding on a single side for all gas tanks is a petty, but undeniable, example of why the market is shit at making significant decisions.
posted by eotvos at 11:44 AM on September 17 [1 favorite]


What I want is a car with fuel fillers on both sides. Just drive in however you can fit and you're good.

I also appreciate that the little NV200 I drive for work has its filler right behind the passenger side door. Makes it easier to get in there when somebody's managing to take up two pumps' worth of space. If I can get my nose in, I'm good.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:26 PM on September 17 [3 favorites]


Wait, what? The fuel filler doesn’t correlate with the drive side, even from the same manufacturer (looking at you, Ford). I really don’t know what determines where they put it.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:19 PM on September 17


I assume putting the gas tank inlet on the back of the car was determined to be somehow horribly dangerous and has been deemed poor form. But it would totally solve the "where do I drive in" question.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:55 AM on September 18


In the seventies I remember cars that had the filler cap hidden under the license plate in the back but as rmd says, I'm pretty sure it was a safety issue.
posted by octothorpe at 5:05 AM on September 18


That thousands of professional engineers decided printing an arrow on the dashboard of every car was a better idea than deciding on a single side for all gas tanks is a petty, but undeniable, example of why the market is shit at making significant decisions.

It makes sense when you think of the shared resources at a gas station. Being able to fill vehicles on both sides of a pump island is a more efficient use of resources than having to double the number of islands just to serve the same number of cars. Ideally the market wants a 50/50 mix of left-fill and right-fill vehicles so gas station lines will all be of equal length and you won't have to stretch pump hoses over the tops of vehicles to balance out demand. If everybody had to fill on the same side, that would increase the footprint of each gas station by what, 30-40%? That could be the difference between running a profit and going out of business.
posted by fedward at 9:08 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]

It makes sense when you think of the shared resources at a gas station. Being able to fill vehicles on both sides of a pump island is a more efficient use of resources than having to double the number of islands just to serve the same number of cars.
Still not seeing how making half the cars face north and the other half face south while pulling up on opposite sides of the pump doesn't solve the same problem.
posted by eotvos at 11:42 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]


I'm on mobile right now, but there have been cars both with dual gas fillers and ones in the center of the rear. Haven't seen any newer than decades old tho.
posted by rhizome at 1:17 PM on September 18


Still not seeing how making half the cars face north and the other half face south while pulling up on opposite sides of the pump doesn't solve the same problem.

It requires more land. Imagine a gas station along a northbound traffic lane, separated by a median from southbound traffic, so the only cars entering the station are already pointed north. If all the pump lines go the same direction (northbound) the gas station only needs a line area on the south entrance of the lot, and the north entrance can be made exit only, and of reduced size in comparison. If the cars have to pull in both north and southbound (keeping in mind that they're driving northbound when they enter and northbound when they leave) then the north entrance has to be bigger, more lot space has to be given over to it, and you have to have a wide enough south entrance for the people who did a U-turn into the station to do another U-turn to get out of it. Plus, if the line for the northbound pumps backs up, the people who want to leave the southbound pumps will be blocked until the line clears, potentially creating a whole little gridlock of U-turns in the lot, where people waiting for southbound pumps also prevent the northbound people from exiting because they're angled into that north entrance.
posted by fedward at 2:59 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]


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