Metatalktail Hour: Stupid Human Tricks December 19, 2020 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Hello weekend Mefites! This week soundguy99 wants to hear about your Stupid Human Tricks. "In light of this Ask, which is apparently inspiring some of us to contortion ourselves in our abodes to see what is & is not possible, here's a possible idea for a MetaTalkTail - Stupid Human Tricks. Unusual things you can do (physical, mental, whatever) or "common" things you can't do? Can you do the chair challenge? Curl your tongue? Move your eyes independently? Multiply 5-digit numbers in your head? Read backwards? Or NOT?"

As usual this is a conversation starter not limiter, so feel free to just let us know what's up with you this weekend etc, just no politics please.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 7:45 AM (113 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Once upon a time, I had the ability to quickly eyeball a stack of quarters and tell the dollar value just from the height. (Though it's faded over time since I don't handle quarters as much anymore.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:04 AM on December 19, 2020 [2 favorites]


I can make this noise.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:31 AM on December 19, 2020


I can juggle, and I can unicycle, but I haven't managed to learn how to do both at the same time. Also, I can make a three-leaf clover with my tongue, like the kid in the Game Boy Pocket commercial.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 9:37 AM on December 19, 2020


I can wiggle my ears independently, and in two directions (back and forth and up and down)!
posted by MadamM at 10:07 AM on December 19, 2020 [1 favorite]


I taught myself how to write backwards in a particularly boring college class. I'm decent with print, slower with cursive.
posted by kimberussell at 10:41 AM on December 19, 2020


I can spin a thumbtack like a top.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:50 AM on December 19, 2020 [1 favorite]


> Also, I can make a three-leaf clover with my tongue

One of my kids can do that, and both of them can curl their tongues into U-shapes. I say it's just that I choose not to because I have better, more important things to do with my time.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:51 AM on December 19, 2020 [2 favorites]


I can curl my tongue, dislocate both my shoulders, bend my pinkies back until they touch the backs of my hands, do various other knuckle things, and wiggle both my ears by sort of shrugging my entire scalp.

I can also spin a coin in five or six different ways.
posted by Slinga at 11:02 AM on December 19, 2020 [1 favorite]


I am so nearsighted that when I take my contacts out, I function as a human microscope: I focus perfectly on stuff 4 inches from my eye. Very useful for taking splinters out, for instance, or identifying tiny dead bugs.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:07 PM on December 19, 2020 [22 favorites]


I can read handwriting upside down, so if someone across the table from me is writing something, I can tell what it is, even if it's bad handwriting.
posted by essexjan at 12:26 PM on December 19, 2020 [2 favorites]


I can count to 1,023 on my fingers.
posted by firechicago at 1:09 PM on December 19, 2020 [4 favorites]


Once upon a time, I had the ability to quickly eyeball a stack of quarters and tell the dollar value just from the height. (Though it's faded over time since I don't handle quarters as much anymore.)

A long time ago when I worked in a print shop, I got so I could accurately eyeball how many sheets were in a stack of paper. It was a really useful skill while working there, and completely useless otherwise.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:31 PM on December 19, 2020 [2 favorites]


I always stop at 132 when counting on my fingers.
posted by obfuscation at 2:00 PM on December 19, 2020 [2 favorites]


The Corpse In The Library - I swear I read once that the ability to curl your tongue is genetic. Can your spouse do that?

Can't think of a stupid human trick at the moment, but hope you will indulge a proud -auntie moment - so it's bad enough that Covid is keeping me home instead of letting me visit the family, and it's bad enough that I am midway through getting over a broken knee on top of it; but on top of all that, my oven broke yesterday. So even the slice-and-bake cookies I wanted to make just to have a little taste of Christmas normality, I can't do.

However - that same day is when I got the box full o' stuff from my brother's family; the one little gift for Christmas, the picture my nephew drew, a bag of cranberries from the family bog. And - a box of cookies from my twelve-year-old niece, who has become quite the baker! She included three bars she called "beach brownies", which in her neatly-written note she explained were "brownies with a graham cracker crust at the bottom", and eight gingerbread cookies - four stockings and four santas. And best of all - one of the decorated santas is sporting a leg cast. :-)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:01 PM on December 19, 2020 [19 favorites]


After a job where I had to measure 100 feet many times a day (and occasionally other lengths) for 3+ years, I can just look and know when something is 100 feet away.

Before I broke my arm badly in a motorcycle accident, I could put my left arm behind my back and touch my right ear.

I can sleep on command, day or night. In the military I once went to sleep with howitzers going off a few feet away.

Reading a book upside down is easy for me.
posted by baegucb at 2:13 PM on December 19, 2020 [2 favorites]


I’m pretty good at picking things up with my toes.

I cannot snap my fingers. I also can only wink with one eye.
posted by Night_owl at 2:17 PM on December 19, 2020 [2 favorites]


Can't whistle, can't snap my fingers. But I can do a great impression of an Elvis impersonating Bullwinkle the Moose singing All Shook Up.
posted by y2karl at 2:41 PM on December 19, 2020 [7 favorites]


I think this has come up before on here, I can count letters in a word quickly. I think there was someone else on here who can also do it. It's not a desperately useful skill.

Back in my UG chemistry days one of my classmates could stick his finger in a water bath and tell you the temperature to 0.5C.
posted by biffa at 2:51 PM on December 19, 2020 [3 favorites]


I have an uncanny ability to sit happily at home, alone, for many days on end, talking with no one, and reading. This knack has come in quite useful in 2020.
posted by Kat Allison at 2:56 PM on December 19, 2020 [34 favorites]


I can count to 1,023 on my fingers.

Oh hey me too! Did not even know that was a thing. I can turn my tongue upside down in both directions, and wiggle my ears by doing that scalp-shrug thing. I can pick things up with my toes and if I am not thinking about it, can do things with my two hands independently (clean counter with one hand, pour coffee with another) but once I start thinking about it, I lose the skill. I can, but don't, chew on my toenails.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 3:06 PM on December 19, 2020 [2 favorites]


An acquaintance had the ability to remember (I think literally) every wine he had ever drunk. He was a great Somelier but, sadly, an alcoholic.

I know two people who can hear music and know what other music it might have stolen parts from - that is, pop song comes on the radio and they are able to recognize that the bass line comes from other popsong or else this melody, but drawn out a little and changed by just one or two notes comes from this other pop song.

Given a cordless screwdriver I can assemble any piece of Ikea furniture in under ten minutes without the instructions. I also bake a pretty mean scone.

If I can watch its flight, I can generally call which side a coin is going to land on.

Also, not to brag, but with little or no practice I can hold me breath for like 45 seconds.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:06 PM on December 19, 2020 [3 favorites]


According to a test a music teacher gave me when I was about eleven, I have perfect pitch.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:17 PM on December 19, 2020


In my much younger years I could do trick acrobatics and a favorite skill was to stand with one foot each on a chair seat and to slowly dramatically slide the chairs apart until I was doing a full split; then I'd rotate my hips until I was doing a full side split and I'd easily stay there for a while. Then I'd slowly revere until back standing with a foot on each chair; and then, do a backbend until my hands were on the floor.

I had thunder-thighs and my upper arms wouldn't fit in button-down tops.

Reader; I now have hip, knee and back problems...
posted by mightshould at 3:33 PM on December 19, 2020 [9 favorites]


i can eyeball the needed amount of fruit and needed volume of liquid into our blender to give a perfect, to the rim of the glass, not one extra drop left, amount of smoothie for 2 people.
posted by alchemist at 4:58 PM on December 19, 2020 [6 favorites]


Absolutely useless for anything other possibly winning a staring contest: I can make my eyes vibrate. If the other stare-er was unaware of this, and/or not expecting it, the sudden movement generally resulted in a shocked/squicked-out reaction that made them flinch, blink or turn away.

We were going to have guests over for dinner, but got word yesterday that they had been exposed to someone 5 days ago that is diagnosed covid positive. They had a quick test, and it came back negative, but they are quarantining, so the dinner is rescheduled for the end of their quarantine.

A friend's father (aged 101!) got covid, and has made a full recovery, so that was really good to hear. It was mild enough that he did not go to the hospital, but it knocked him on his ass for a full two weeks.
posted by coppertop at 5:09 PM on December 19, 2020 [2 favorites]


wiggle both my ears by sort of shrugging my entire scalp.

Me too! I can also raise one eyebrow at a time, either side (one doesn't go quite as high as the other though).

Decades later, from years of marching band I can still pace off five yards to within a couple inches.
posted by solotoro at 5:34 PM on December 19, 2020 [2 favorites]


YOUS GUYS! I was talking to my mom who is in her 70s tonight, and she said, "Can I ask a question? Can you tell me how to know when to use 'they' for someone whose gender isn't male or female, and how to use it?" AND I AM KVELLING. Apparently she saw a singer (I'm assuming Sam Smith?) briefly misgendered on a morning show earlier this week, and another host interject to say, "Sam uses they" and the host who misgendered said, "I'm so sorry, they," and this made my mom realize it was a thing she'd been hearing but she didn't know how it worked and she wanted to do it properly, but she realized that the appropriate person to ask was someone who DIDN'T use singular they. So she asked me and my (much much younger) brother. And she asked us a bunch of question about people who are enby or prefer singular they, and how to know when to use it, and how it works and even HOW TO INTRODUCE HERSELF WITH HER PRONOUNS which is not likely to come up for her but if it does SHE IS READY and I am just very proud and excited that she asked, and that she wants to do it right, and that it matters to her in her 70s.

And then my dad who is also in his 70s came in and he already knew how it all worked because he is already using singular they at work.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 5:48 PM on December 19, 2020 [62 favorites]


Up to about 12-13 letters, and assuming it's a word I know and not a made up word, I can tell you how many letters are in any word almost instantly. I don't count them or break them into chunks or anything I realize consciously. I just know. I have no idea why and it is not useful for anything ever. "Useful" is six letters.

(and yes, everyone ever tests me on 'supercalifragilistic...." immediately after I explain the two constraints)
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:52 PM on December 19, 2020


A lot of common body tricks like touching your pinky backwards to your arm or hyperextending and or dislocating joints and such can be signs of EDS, which as I understand it, means one's body does not process the vitamins and minerals necessary to make collagen very well. EDS comes in a whole gradient from not a huge deal to obvious really huge deal. I believe it is more widely recognized in Europe than North America.

Our bodies use collagen in all sorts of places and ways. If you're human trick level of bendy but not to the point of gee something major is obviously wrong, maybe just keep an eye on making sure you're getting the nutrition you need.
posted by aniola at 6:32 PM on December 19, 2020 [3 favorites]


I can solve a Rubik’s cube in under a minute.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:47 PM on December 19, 2020 [7 favorites]


I am colourblind, so i cannot tell you whether a thing is blue or purple.

Strangely enough, I worked as a photo editor at a big newspaper and spent much of my day looking at thousands of photos from the wire agencies around the world. Because of this, I can look at a photo and tell you what type of camera (phone, SLR, etc) and what kind of lens was used. For portraits, I can tell you what sort of lights were used and where they were placed, relative to the subject.
posted by thenormshow at 7:08 PM on December 19, 2020 [6 favorites]


I also can't snap my fingers and can wink with only one eye.

But here is what I can do:
* I have memorized the squares of numbers up through 17 (17 x 17 is 289).
* I can distinguish between text that is only one point different in size.
* I can tell when there is an extra space between words of text.
* I can do one-leg squats.
* I can wiggle my nostrils.

I can also drink a little water while standing on only one leg. This is surprisingly hard. Try it!
posted by NotLost at 7:22 PM on December 19, 2020 [3 favorites]


I can type 140wpm, and most people cannot talk faster than about 80wpm, so...not overwhelmingly useful.
When I yawn, I sound like Chewbacca.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:56 PM on December 19, 2020 [4 favorites]


I can write with both hands at the same time, so that one hand’s writing is the mirror image of the other hand’s writing.
posted by fancyoats at 8:18 PM on December 19, 2020 [7 favorites]


i can say the alphabet backwards. haven't learned the song backwards (you know "me with sing you won't time next z, y, w, x..." and haven't had much luck the few times i've tried the tune forwards with the letters backwards). my grandmother could touch the tip of her nose with the tip of her tongue but nobody in the family since. i learned to count on my fingers in binary but it is a slog.

but what i wanted to talk about was the algorithm doing something good for, well, maybe the only time ever. yesterday on the blue Acari posted some covid carols, and i listened to a few and i read the only comment that was there yet, Greg_Ace, linking to their covidifications of christmas carol lyrics on twitter. then switched to my phone, so i could follow Greg_Ace on twitter. as soon as i did that twitter recommended a bunch of stuff and, as i turned away my eye brushed across that sequence of letters indicating the name of a good friend of mine who i last encountered at their wedding 15 years ago. the proffered tweet was from @[mefiusername] and read "porting over from @[friend'sname] blah blah blah." (i did not even notice or note the mefiusername). now, there could be any number of people with this name; my google queries over the years did not produce any that jumped out as certainly me person with this name. so i went to @[friend'sname] and scanned a few tweets. there was an anecdote about encountering a drug dog at son's cub scouts with half a joint in the back pocket that sounded promising, but who hasn't done that? probably everybody with that name has. one of their followers was an acquaintance we had in common back in the day; promising. so i checked images: there was some art that looked about right and there was a photo of the back of friend's head, showing off a hat and revealing a recognizable jaw line. i followed that user and came back over here to search for that name on metafilter. and there they were, identifying themself by name, being the right age, claiming an occupation that could only be theirs and providing an email address. i sent a mefimail and, growing impatient, sent an email. immediate reply: "that you? fuck yeah. i guess you must be @mytwitterhandle because who else would call themselves a panopticonoclast." long story just a touch longer: we hooked up facetimewise and fell right back into the ol' rapport for several hours. longlostfriend says they've been a regular metafilter reader since i first mentioned it to them 18 -- or something like that -- years ago, and a member since somewhat more recently.

to the degree you know me, you know me to be a touch cagey with respect to information that might lead to identifying me, and i try to extend that courtesy to others, so i will leave it to that user to identify themself, should they care to. it was the metafilter commonality that caused the algorithm to link us up, so, thanks again metafilter, and particularly proximate cause Greg_Ace. as far as i know twitter is still mostly making the wrong inferences about me otherwise.
posted by 20 year lurk at 8:30 PM on December 19, 2020 [7 favorites]


uhhhhh - z,y,x,w... that is.
posted by 20 year lurk at 8:45 PM on December 19, 2020 [4 favorites]


I don’t have perfect pitch but I can play back melodies really quickly. Usually if I can sing the melody, I can play it back. Although black keys and baselines are harder for me.
With regards to the perfect pitch, a friend was testing my ear and he said that whenever I was guessing a note, I was consistently off by a whole note. I can’t remember which way. Not sure why that would be. Something in my mental map seems to think that G is A or something.
posted by gt2 at 8:49 PM on December 19, 2020


I can triple-curl my tongue (apparently this is called (cloverleaf tongue).
I used to be able to tie a cherry stem into a knot with my tongue.
I can tell when my wife wants to take a nap based on how she blinks (admittedly, this is only impressive to one person).
posted by Gorgik at 9:27 PM on December 19, 2020 [2 favorites]


Both of my thumbs are double jointed in two places, but my super-special skill is predicting who will be the most grossed out by it when I show them.
posted by mochapickle at 10:07 PM on December 19, 2020 [9 favorites]


I can also raise one eyebrow at a time, either side

I can do this, but I couldn't always. When I was a kid on holidays once my sister's friend could do it, and I couldn't, and this annoyed me. I can't remember how long it took, but I taught myself to do this.

So: if you can't raise either eyebrow independently, I could probably teach you my method for learning it. (It's not complicated, what with having been invented by a ten-year-old.)

Oh, and I can do that stomach-roll thing.
posted by pompomtom at 10:45 PM on December 19, 2020 [1 favorite]


I used to be able to do the cherry stalk trick too Georgik, a cute girl in a bar in Anchorage showed me how and then tested me, a fun exam.

NotLost I used to be a great nostril wriggler too! It had no use whatsoever.

Not physical but I have a very reliable hunch when I encounter thieves, I can pick them at a hundred metres, something in their gait? who knows, but it's something I listen to.
posted by unearthed at 12:26 AM on December 20, 2020 [2 favorites]


Like NotLost, I have eagle eyes for text formatting discrepancies like moving between one point of font or extra spaces in between words. Given that my job and one of my major hobbies both require a lot of editing and proofreading, it's incredibly useful. But it can also be super annoying at times because there's a lot of sloppy copy around these days and I sometimes get very frustrated reading things that are Obviously Wrong out in the wild when I have no power to correct them.
posted by terretu at 1:34 AM on December 20, 2020 [6 favorites]


I have great feet, comes from growing up on construction sites -- if I trip or stumble I very rarely go down, I get this foot and/or that foot down, time and again until I catch my balance. However, when I *do* go down, it's generally a big production involving skin, blood, pain etc.

I ride my bicycle daily, and I ride with clips, and while mostly I'm able to kick free before going down it's at least once a year that I go down. It's just part of riding with clips, though anyone could go down without clips also. But I'll never ride without them, so much more power! I've learned to fall better, to roll fast and take the landing on my shoulder and thigh and butt cheek rather than elbow and hip but sometimes going down it's just so goddamned fast that whatever happens just happens.
This one the worst wreck I've been in. (So far.) Completely unmarked rain gutter, my front tire hit it and it's an angle so I dropped down until it jammed the front wheel and I didn't know it even happened until I came to, a few seconds, wracked and wrapped around the bike, still clipped to the pedals, completely unable to move. Not sure how much longer I came to again and was able to move. One hell of a concussion, some broken bones, and yet another big-time TBI.

~~~~~

My thumb and little finger on my left hand are both double-jointed, though arthritis seems to be doing my thumb out of that; I just tried, came close but it really hurts. When I was a kid I could crack knuckles on every finger and thumb and it was super-loud, I could easily disrupt a class-room by doing so; now only rarely can I get much noise out of any knuckle or toe, nor my knees either. Nor my neck; before the arthritis set in so flippin' hard I could crank/crack my neck around; now that only happens if I find myself in a chiropractors office.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:30 AM on December 20, 2020 [1 favorite]


Those of you who count to 1023 in binary on your fingers: in what order do you assign digits to digits? I usually go right thumb to right pinky, left thumb to left pinky, from least significant bit to most (and then right foot, left foot for overflow).

In a previous thread like this, someone said that they can always tell if potatoes have been reheated, and I was like ooh, me too, so this time I’m getting in first with the potato thing.
posted by moonmilk at 5:18 AM on December 20, 2020 [3 favorites]


I count like so. (I have never actually counted to 1023 on my hands. BUT I CAN.)
posted by obfuscation at 5:27 AM on December 20, 2020


Palms up? Startlingly innovative!
posted by moonmilk at 5:29 AM on December 20, 2020


I can stealth whistle - I produce the whistling sound with my tongue and the roof of my mouth, so my lips don't go into the whistling shape. The funny thing is that I hardly ever whistle in front of people, even though I whistle a lot! (my bird likes it) So the few times someone has noticed they are like "how the hell did you just make that noise?"
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:23 AM on December 20, 2020 [3 favorites]


I can munch my way through my employer's arcane bureaucracy in such a way that my team can actually get work done. Another incredibly useless life skill!
posted by quacks like a duck at 7:09 AM on December 20, 2020 [5 favorites]


I can roll my tongue and whistle through it. Sounds like a faintly demented owl.

I can often soothe people into burping. I'm not sure how. I make people burp? Is that bad? Is that good? I have no idea! Maybe it's a gastro-intestinal ASMR thing.

I can't crack my knuckles (my hands are permanently slight contracted) and feel physically ill if someone nearby does so. This has been a great year for not feeling physically ill.

I can make above-average cat purrs and pigeon coos, but it's not from my unusually non-rhotic (I don't roll my Rs) Scottish voice.
posted by scruss at 7:56 AM on December 20, 2020 [1 favorite]


I can’t support myself; that’s fairly stupid.
posted by bixfrankonis at 8:43 AM on December 20, 2020 [1 favorite]


I can’t roll my r’s. Which makes learning Italian or Spanish problematic. I can also only whistle (badly) while inhaling.
I have a really good memory for the spoken word. When I was younger I could easily memorize almost anything, but not for forever, only until I didn’t need it anymore.
I also recognize actors by voice more than face.
posted by dbmcd at 9:36 AM on December 20, 2020


I can do a good deed inadvertently and tangentially, and despite my actions having been for my own selfish silly reason!
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:33 AM on December 20, 2020 [3 favorites]


I can turn fabric into booze! I gave my neighbours some handmade cloth masks, and they gave me a bottle of liquor in return. And I wasn't even expecting anything... except that they would hopefully like the masks. Which they do.

A++, would gift again.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:44 AM on December 20, 2020 [11 favorites]


I can cross all four of my fingers on both hands without using the other hand for an assist (i.e. ring finger over pinky, middle finger over index finger).
posted by holborne at 1:52 PM on December 20, 2020


I have that genetic trait that allows me to voluntarily move my tympanic membrane (or whatever it’s called), the upshot being that it’s very easy to pop my ears and I can do it just by moving the inside of my ears.

I can also crack nearly every joint in my body. Sounds a bit like firecrackers when I stretch after waking up.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:04 PM on December 20, 2020


Still can’t really snap my fingers. I know how, finally, but I’m probably never going to practice enough to make it loud.

I used to be able to put the tip of my pinky finger into the dip between that same pinky and the ring finger next to it, but my joints are not as soft as they once were. I don’t crack my knuckles any more, either. Used to all the time, but some joints would hurt before they popped, so I decided to quit before I hurt myself.

I used to be able to light a lighter with my toes, but I haven’t tried it in years. (Requires both feet; my toes aren’t so flexible as to hold and light it with just the one foot, but that would be impressive.)

I also used to be able to keep my feet in treacherous situations not including ice. I stumble a lot, but I rarely fall. I probably still can, but I avoid treacherous foot situations now. No more running down city steps, f’rinstance.

I think I can still balance stuff on my head, but again, haven’t tried in years.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 6:48 PM on December 20, 2020 [1 favorite]


I don't think I can do any stupid human tricks! If I had to really stretch I can say that I can shed a lot of hairs.

Oh, when I have indigestion (i.e. most days), instead of burping, I make a croaking sound in my upper GI tract without any food smells. I have no idea what this is and would prefer to be rid of this ability (it's not like I can do it on command, anyway!).
posted by batter_my_heart at 8:20 PM on December 20, 2020


My claim to fame is that I can burp, loudly and impressively, on command. Probably helps that I'm really never that far from a coke zero or some flavor of carbonated water, but I've never gone without long enough to test this theory.
posted by cgg at 8:28 PM on December 20, 2020


I can whistle out of the side of my mouth, and it's slightly easier and more comfortable than whistling "normally" with pursed lips.
posted by biogeo at 9:18 PM on December 20, 2020


I don't extend my fingers in the expected order when counting on them. This weird some people out, for some reason!

I'm American and we typically start index-finger-first, so it's: index, middle, pinky, ring, thumb. But even in French class where they taught us the French always start with their thumb, I'd start with the thumb and then maintain the same pattern.

I have done this as long as I can remember, it's always felt natural, and I didn't realize until middle school that my way was unusual.

I can, with effort and much more slowly, extend my fingers in the "correct order". But only do that when the subject has come up and I'm demonstrating.
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:58 PM on December 20, 2020


I can type-transcribe a written text at about 120 wpm with minimal errors, while carrying on a conversation about something entirely different. I don't even read it, I just type it. Also if I think of a sentence and start typing it, my fingers can usually finish it on their own without my conscious involvement, so I can talk to someone while I type it, although sometimes with hilarious terminal nouns that come from the spoken conversation. (Also I slow down to about 100 wpm when doing that. I can go 140 when I'm not doing anything but typing and concentrating.) I learned to do this at a newspaper before everything was digital and sometimes we had to transcribe written or typewritten or printed-out text, but it turns out to be surprisingly useful for having children. (WHO NEVER STOP TALKING AND NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE ANYMORE.)

I can also do a shit-ton of calendar math in my head regarding the Julian, Gregorian, Jewish, Roman civil, and related calendars. It is my most useless human trick but every now and then it comes up and blows people's minds. My masters degree is in liturgy and liturgists deal a lot with calendars and I just got fast with it. (Also people are sometimes amazed when I can explain why Easter moves around and how they decide when it is.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 10:19 PM on December 20, 2020 [5 favorites]


I can straighten my fingers out and then bend only the tip to the first knuckle without bending any other knuckles for about four of them. It's apparently genetic as my mom can do this with all of her fingers.
posted by Aleyn at 10:43 PM on December 20, 2020


Can read or write upside down. Also used to be very good at judging small sizes/measurements/gaps by eye due to years working in label printing.
posted by Chairboy at 3:18 AM on December 21, 2020


When my son was a baby, I was extremely good at catching his bottles if he dropped them while I was carrying him. Like, they never hit the floor.

My other Dad Power is being able to hear the mail truck when it's three houses away when all the windows and doors are closed.

I can also interlock my fingers behind my back, between my shoulder blades. I think it's part of a yoga pose and a really nice stretch if you can do it.
posted by Twicketface at 6:06 AM on December 21, 2020 [1 favorite]


My 13-year-old, a former gymnast and current diver (when the pools open again) and "flipper"—trampoline trickster—told me recently that he could learn a physical skill by watching someone else do it, and then his body would just know how to do it, and this is one reason he was such a good gymnast (and such a good diver and flipper now). I thought this was really cool.

When I was quite young, I taught myself to sing "We're in the Money" in pig latin, a la Ginger Rogers in "Gold Diggers of 1933. I still think this is a cool thing to be able to do, but, sadly, there has been little call for it in the subsequent 35 years.
posted by Orlop at 7:11 AM on December 21, 2020 [4 favorites]


I used to be able to whistle with my tongue against my upper palate, but I appear to have lost this. I'm pretty good at whistling, so I know that some percentage of people feel the need to chastise women for whistling; it seems to be an old and widespread superstition. Sexist and annoying, too.

When my son was little, we taught him a few Made Ya Look gags which amused me no end.
posted by theora55 at 7:48 AM on December 21, 2020


OK this is going to be tough to explain in text, even showing it physically the people able to learn it is maybe 10%, and I often use this with classes just as an interesting little time filler...

Hey guys, would you like to create a strange floating finger like THIS?! Bizarre, right? Want to learn how to do it?

OK let's try.

1) Palms together like prayer or wai gesture.
2) Keep them flat and together, but interleave your middle fingers. So all other fingers still touching their counterpart, but the middle fingers are bent in towards the other hand. Got that?
3) Here is the tricky part, now keeping all of that in place you need to rotate your palms. So that the fingers of each palm is pointing towards the other wrist. So still palm to palm but now your elbows will be pointing out and your hands will be in at your waist...
3a) Cool, you did it, now wiggle your middle fingers, looks like one strange mutant finger... off you go, amaze your family and friends!
3b) Sorry, keep trying, not everybody gets it easily... But I believe in you, you can do it! Would you like me to show you again?
posted by Meatbomb at 8:08 AM on December 21, 2020


I can't blow bubbles with gum. My kids, who are small, can and they're kind of surprised that I can't. I'll figure it out eventually.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:51 AM on December 21, 2020 [1 favorite]


I can guess the thickness of a coin to within one thousandth of an inch. I know that I can do this because I did it successfully on my first try, 20 years ago.

Not being eager to disprove this ability, I haven't tried to repeat the feat.
posted by jon1270 at 12:05 PM on December 21, 2020 [3 favorites]


If I focus really hard for about two minutes, I can move the toe next to my pinky toe on each foot independently of my other toes.
posted by Krazor at 12:19 PM on December 21, 2020 [1 favorite]


I am proud to say that at age 41 I can still do 20 pushups on my fingertips, even after 8 months of WFH.

I can hum and whistle at the same time, a couple octaves apart but on pitch, which freaks the cats out.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:43 PM on December 21, 2020 [1 favorite]


I find four-leaf clovers (and five, and six, and once an eight).

This weekend was the first time I had spoken with humans outside my family in several weeks. We took our governor's stay-at-home pretty-please as seriously as we could. But now it's been close to two months and we're well into a downswing, COVID-wise, which is not to say it's a nice picture out there, but it's one of the places that's been falling for several weeks straight, so it felt okay to deliver our Christmas goodies to friends around town, and talk to them each for a few minutes outside, shivering. And I felt like a real person again.
posted by eirias at 2:02 PM on December 21, 2020


perfect pitch. and a weird hinge thing with one pinky.
posted by Dashy at 3:04 PM on December 21, 2020 [1 favorite]


I can move my eyes independently! I cross them like normal, and then I can will either eye to drift back to looking straight ahead, while the other stays crossed. With some focus, I can use this skill to make it look like they are pinballs bouncing off each other.
posted by gorillawarfare at 3:05 PM on December 21, 2020


I'm (mostly) ambidextrous.

I can lock my thumbs and only move the top joint on both hands.

I can make my tongue look like a W (as well as the more usual curl).

I can move my eyes independently by crossing them then uncrossing one. I can do it with both, and can switch them with no friction, so it looks like they are balls bouncing off each other. My wife hates when I do this so much.

I used to be able to independently wiggle my ears (figured out after watching Alf as a kid), but I can only do it with my right ear nowadays. The loss of ability to do it with my left still makes me sad.

I can injure myself in the most ridiculous ways. I broke my arm tripping on a clod of grass, and tore my ACL playing kickball.
posted by General Malaise at 4:47 PM on December 21, 2020


I'm (mostly) ambidextrous.

Man, I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous!
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:15 PM on December 21, 2020 [9 favorites]


3486 two-way @$1, 2x day for 16 days.
posted by clavdivs at 5:24 PM on December 21, 2020


I've never lost a headstand or hoola hoop contest (though it's been a good 15 years since the last hoola hoop challenge - I'm 45). I also never forget someone's birthday once I've been told it.

So, these tongue ones are fascinating to me based 100% on the fact that my mom has always been frustrated and offended that she can't do them. She was a Spanish teacher that can't roll her Rs, she can't blow bubbles with gum and can't U-shape her tongue.

(Oh, and EmpressCallipygos, I had always heard that the tongue curling was genetic, but I just Googled it and it seems there may be a lack of evidence, that there may also be environmental factors - what those might be, uh? My mom's tongue frustrations seem related! Her husband (my dad), is/was a geneticist. I don't think he ever had an opinion on tongue genetics.)
posted by Pax at 6:15 PM on December 21, 2020


I have no idea if this is actually uncommon or not, but I can crack my toe knuckles?
posted by juv3nal at 6:39 PM on December 21, 2020 [1 favorite]


Due to my enduring pectoral muscle stamina I am able to continue boob dancing as a party trick well into it's 4th decade. Unfortunately no-one invites me to parties anymore. Which is probably good because my other party tricks are doing that creepy eyeball wobbling thing and a variety of really silly voices.
posted by h00py at 7:17 AM on December 22, 2020 [2 favorites]


I'm another one who can't snap my fingers. And I KNOW FOR A FACT that I can't snap my fingers, because if you say "I can't snap my fingers" in any social situation, three people will leap to try and explain to you that you're probably doing it wrong, here, put your finger here and your thumb here and and and -

And nothing. It does. not. work. I don't know if my hand is a weird shape or what but the loudest sound I have ever managed to create is a disappointing moist *plep*.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:19 AM on December 22, 2020 [2 favorites]


It is possible I may demonstrate at least the eyeball thing at the gala and one or more voices. Stay tuned!
posted by h00py at 7:23 AM on December 22, 2020 [2 favorites]


I can write equally well (poorly) with both hands. I can throw equally well with both hands.

I can cry lots of tears at will.

I can fall asleep anywhere, anytime. (Including standing in the shower.)

I can chug a carbonated beverage from a can or bottle faster than anyone who has ever tried to beat me.
posted by AugustWest at 7:55 AM on December 22, 2020 [2 favorites]


I can running write backwards pretty easily.
posted by h00py at 8:00 AM on December 22, 2020


I have that genetic trait that allows me to voluntarily move my tympanic membrane (or whatever it’s called), the upshot being that it’s very easy to pop my ears and I can do it just by moving the inside of my ears.

I can do this thing, which I never knew was a thing. I always thought I was just tensing my jaw muscles or something.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:56 AM on December 22, 2020


Actually find it neat that so many can whistle without the usual lip involvement. I used to be able to do a loud, impressive whistle that came from down my throat/up and out. I could do it with mouth barely open. My friends were impressed! (then one year I got laryngitis and was never able to do it again)

I can pick up things with my toes.

I can read upside down and backwards.

Yet I can only snap the fingers on one hand.
posted by annieb at 11:11 AM on December 22, 2020 [1 favorite]


I can pick up things with my toes.

Ok so this isn't a stupid human trick so much as a way to annoy your loved ones, and what better time for that than the holidays?

Most people, even the folks with multitalented toes, lack phalangeal dexterity between toes 3 and 4.

If someone, let's say your gross little brother, is lying on the couch with his nasty bare feet up, put a AA battery (AAA will not work!!) between toes 3 and 4. Really snug it down in there. Chances are good he'll have to sit up and remove it with his hands, because it's hard to get those two toes far apart enough to dislodge it with toe action alone. When the family is together I'll walk around with a AA battery in my pocket so I'm always ready.
posted by phunniemee at 12:22 PM on December 22, 2020 [2 favorites]


My stupid human trick is that I can flare my nostrils quite well.

My other trick includes the ability to mystify people when I tell them that I haven't seen any of the original 3 Star Wars movies in my 43 years on earth. Except for that time when some guy in college tried to get me to watch the first one, and I watched part of it and fell asleep.

Can curl my tongue and flip it upside down (but only one way).

I also cannot snap my fingers. I've always attributed it to my generally weak hands, but ... ?
posted by hydra77 at 12:32 PM on December 22, 2020


theora55: I used to be able to whistle with my tongue against my upper palate

I can still do that. But I can't whistle in any other way.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:25 PM on December 22, 2020 [1 favorite]


I can draw mirror images simultaneously with both hands. This is easier than you think (thanks to Lynda Barry for the tip), you basically just have to turn off the part of your brain that's suppressing movement of the non-dominant hand.

When half-drunk, I used to be able to make one eye spin in circles while the other eye went cross-eyed as if staring at the other eye. That was good for a few drinks.
posted by benzenedream at 3:49 PM on December 22, 2020 [1 favorite]


I guess I'll just leave this here.
posted by fleacircus at 4:06 PM on December 22, 2020


Absolutely useless for anything other possibly winning a staring contest: I can make my eyes vibrate.

This is called voluntary nystagmus, and it's definitely uncommon. It gets a brief mention in the introductory chapter of a lovely old textbook by Roger Carpenter, Movements of the Eyes, about, well, what the title says, when Carpenter mentions several types of eye movements he's not going to discuss in further depth but wants to include for completeness.

My brother used to do it all the time when we were kids in order to weird me out.
posted by biogeo at 4:26 PM on December 22, 2020


Thank you, person who me-mailed me, for turning one of the few neat things about my body into yet another downside to living in it. I really appreciate that.
posted by Aleyn at 4:34 PM on December 22, 2020


Thank you, person who me-mailed me, for turning one of the few neat things about my body into yet another downside to living in it.

Ooh, is it re. your finger thing from upthread? Because I can do that, too! Whichever memailing fun ruiner you are out there please come tell me so I know what my dead goat is, too.
posted by phunniemee at 5:55 PM on December 22, 2020 [2 favorites]


There used to be a place in Salt Lake City, called The Dead Goat Saloon. No downer, a pretty hip spot, back in the day, a beer well, anyway. I think poetically, process language that way, on any day. I am still finding my ink kink.
posted by Oyéah at 8:05 PM on December 22, 2020


I can recite the Greek alphabet backwards. I can't do this with the (English?) alphabet.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:09 AM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


Here is how to square any number ending in the digit 5.

35 x 35 = 1225
How to do it: always ends in 25. 3 x 4 = 12.

55 x 55 = 3025
How to do it: always ends in 25, 5 x 6 = 30.

75 x 75 = 5625
How to do it: always ends in 25, 7 x 8 = 56.

Now you can do it too!
posted by wittgenstein at 6:16 AM on December 23, 2020 [4 favorites]


Phunniemee and Aleyn, I too wish to know how my slightly weird finger characteristic is a sign of my impending doom, and the destruction of all I love.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:39 AM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


Hell, I'm starting to wonder if this slightly weird finger thing is a harbringer of the rise of an Alternate Human Species which will ultimately adapt this aforementioned finger thing into a survival skill. Y'all may be the Best Hope For Humanity!!!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:54 AM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


I can only count to 99 on my fingers (right fingers are 1 each, right thumb is 5, each left finger counts as 10, left thumb counts as 50). Never picked up the knack of binary, but the up-to-99 method makes it really easy to do basic addition and subtraction.

I have also perfected the technique of slowly spinning a large metal bowl on the countertop next to the popcorn popper while also drizzling melted butter into it for quality butter-to-popcorn distribution. If I ever lose or dent that bowl it will have a major detrimental effect on my quality of life
posted by ook at 9:13 AM on December 23, 2020


I can straighten my fingers out and then bend only the tip to the first knuckle without bending any other knuckles

I can do that, but I can also straighten out the fingers and then bend the finger only at the first (large) knuckle without bending it at the second knuckle, so into an L shape. When I do this, the tip is completely relaxed at the second knuckle and can be flickered back and forth. I ask people to feel it and they freak out, it feels like it's completely loose. Especially in the ring finger.
posted by beagle at 3:42 PM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


I can do that, but I can also

Sir, I regret to inform you that your knuckles have smallpox.
posted by phunniemee at 3:54 PM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


I can make a nice sound on a piccolo. This is a stupid human trick because nothing written for the piccolo is interested in sounding nice.
posted by snerson at 5:23 PM on December 23, 2020 [18 favorites]


I can only count to 99 on my fingers (right fingers are 1 each, right thumb is 5, each left finger counts as 10, left thumb counts as 50). Never picked up the knack of binary, but the up-to-99 method makes it really easy to do basic addition and subtraction.

Chisanbop. It's probably the single most useful thing I learned in elementary school; I use it all the time for quick basic math. They taught us some way to go past 99 (I think maybe it was by using your wrists or elbows as 100 markers?) but that has never seemed necessary.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:22 PM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


In my much younger years I could do trick acrobatics and a favorite skill was to stand with one foot each on a chair seat and to slowly dramatically slide the chairs apart until I was doing a full split; then I'd rotate my hips until I was doing a full side split and I'd easily stay there for a while. Then I'd slowly revere until back standing with a foot on each chair; and then, do a backbend until my hands were on the floor.

I had thunder-thighs and my upper arms wouldn't fit in button-down tops.

Reader; I now have hip, knee and back problems...


When I was a kid, I loved doing contortionist tricks. My "signature" skill was that I could bring my foot up and hook it around my hip (like a standing hamstring curl) and then I would do that with both feet, and walk on my knees. And yes, I now have severe issues with my hips, knees, and back.

I'm also really good at efficiently packing things. Give me a bunch of different sized boxes, and I can all get them to magically pack inside of each other. This is a useful skill for moving when you only have a small car to cram all your stuff in. Also for packing on trips. It's not good for much else.
posted by litera scripta manet at 10:53 AM on December 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


Forgive me for shoehorning in a tangentially related humble brag, but I just found out my kid has been renaming sticks in Minecraft to be "Gucci sticks" and then selling them to other kids for five diamonds each.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:06 PM on December 24, 2020 [11 favorites]


I can only whistle by drawing breath in, not by expelling it, but I can carry a pretty fair tune that way.
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 2:07 PM on December 24, 2020


I discovered today that I can eat my weight in Chex Mix.
posted by theora55 at 4:13 PM on December 25, 2020 [3 favorites]


I have no particularly interesting abilities, but I did discover this delicious holiday cocktail recipe, and now I am slightly drunk. My stupid human trick may be googling up cocktails that do a really good job masking the taste of alcohol.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:15 PM on December 25, 2020


I can put my fist in my mouth.
posted by inexorably_forward at 5:46 PM on December 25, 2020 [1 favorite]


I haven't tried in a while, but I used to be able to read SPI waveforms off an oscilloscope by eye and give you the hex bytes, basically fluently. (The 'scopes in the lab I was working in didn't have the protocol decoding options back then, and I did a *lot* of low-level driver debugging).
posted by automatronic at 11:40 AM on December 26, 2020 [1 favorite]


When standing in open water, I can use one hand to forcibly eject a stream of water a really, really high/far distance. I do this by quickly clenching my semi closed fist extremely tightly, ejecting the water up towards my thumb which stays out of the water. For some reason, I am extremely skilled at this. I do not have unusually large hands, nor am I particularly strong or muscular. But I never fail to impress others with this stupid ability, and I have never met another person who can do this as well as I can. I've seen others try with 2-hands, which can eject a greater volume of water. But as far as one-handed vertical water squirting goes (I can also fire these burst of water at angles) I am the best that I or anyone else around me has ever seen. I keep my hand loose when doing this so all the bones in my hand squish together a lot, which is the only "secret" I can try to relate about this curious talent.

I've been doing this since I was a little kid and all I can say is that I'm very, very good at doing it.
posted by SoberHighland at 12:49 PM on December 26, 2020 [3 favorites]


I work in a library. I pull holds daily, which is finding items that have been requested and gathering them. I have my title list in one hand and always reach out and touch a book to get my bearings as far as what’s on the spine labels to start looking for the book I need. On a good day, I am almost always either touching the book I am looking for, or it’s the very next one. When I started realizing I was doing this, I tried to consciously do it and couldn’t. Now I just look at the list, not the books, run my hand along the book spines and it just happens. We shift books around frequently and it still happens. Fiction, nonfiction, everything. I love it!
posted by LaBellaStella at 3:44 PM on December 27, 2020 [4 favorites]


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