Choo choo!

July 28, 2011

I was having dinner outside last night at Angelo’s with a friend when the crossing signals activated across route 122 to prepare for the arrival of a freight train. I smiled broadly, as I often do at home when I hear the train approach. I never tire of watching it go by my window and feeling the building shake a bit. There’s just something about trains that I really love. It could be the raw power of them (the train speeds by the mill and if you’re outdoors you can just feel the massive amount of energy involved) or it could be the lure of a more romantic era.
The first full-scale working steam engine railway went online in 1804 in England. It took us a while longer here in the states to jump onboard but by 1830 the Baltimore and Ohio railroad (The B&O from Monopoly) was in service. Steam ruled the rails here until the middle of the 20th century, when diesel rapidly replaced it.
I very much want to take a journey by train someday, whether across Europe or out west. I like the idea of enjoying the journey as much as the destination. In the meantime, I’d love to ride the Newport Dinner Train but I want it to be a truly special, romantic occasion.


Vocally vexing

July 27, 2011

My current favorite song is “The Awful Grace of God” by a good friend of mine, Brian Webb. It’s the first time in my life that my favorite song was written and performed by a friend, and it also made me realize just how different someone’s singing voice can be from their speaking voice. If he hadn’t handed me the CD himself and I hadn’t seen his recording studio in his house then there’s absolutely no way I would believe it was him singing. Music is still a frontier for me – someday I want to be able to devote the time to learn to play my guitar (and probably piano too) at a reasonable level, and I would also like to attempt to learn to sing. I’m not a natural at either of these things because I have a mediocre ear for pitch (I tested it and was actually pleasantly surprised to be average in this regard) but I think I can learn a lot by venturing into an area where I am sure to struggle quite a bit.


I like the show “Life After People.”  It’s a silly show that supposes that all the people in the world instantly disappeared. Then they fast forward into the future to show what would happen to the world that we know. Mostly it highlights what would happen to famous buildings (inevitably the iron rusts and the whole thing crashes down). The first episode talked about what would happen to dogs (the big ones would eat the small ones and within a few generations would look far more wolflike). Tonight’s episode focused on a more mundane animal – Asian carp trying to get into the Great Lakes. They are a pain (they are scared by boats and jump into the air and sometime into people on the boats) and do eventually get in, but who cares? They get there and some other invasive species gives them trouble. Um, who cares? And the structure they watched fall down was some ferris wheel that is lit by solar power. It hung on for a while and then it rusted and fell down, just like everything else.

I don’t have anything too profound today… I saw the final Harry Potter film (an excellent adaptation of a flawed book), and was pleased to learn that my local movie theater (Cinemaworld in Lincoln) plays “cult classics” every weekend at midnight for $2. Even better, this weekend’s movie is Serenity, which is the feature film sequel to the Joss Whedon TV show Firefly. The show didn’t even last one full season thanks to the shortsighted morons that run television programming not understanding that the best shows take longer to gain the audience they deserve. The film is quite good, though I don’t think it did quite well enough to justify yet another film sequel, unfortunately. I’m going even though I own an HD version of the movie and a projector – there’s just something about going to a theater.

Parlez vous?

July 20, 2011

The German Grand Prix takes place this weekend at the Nurburgring in western Germany, not far from Luxembourg and Belgium. Both of those two smaller countries are primarily French speaking, but I knew that from a 6th grade geography project I did. What I did learn today during my usual amount of time on is that the words “Grand Prix” is really just French for “Grand Prize.” It makes perfect sense, but I never saw it until it was pointed out by an article. Oddly enough, there is currently no French Grand Prix.

Cousin Larry

July 18, 2011

I was watching Mean Girls for the umpteenth time the other day and this scene drove me to do so research. In the scene, the girl on the right was confused about how she was related to the guy she wanted to kiss, who was her cousin.  I then went to see my Uncle Parka and his grand-daughters who were visiting my parents. The kids are the daughters of my first cousin Berti, and I wasn’t sure what their relational name to me was. So I looked it up and they are my first cousins, once removed. I thought they might be second cousins, but that would mean that our nearest common ancestor would be a great-grandparent (versus a grandparent for first cousins). If one of the girls has a child one day, that child would be my first cousin, twice removed. Finally, this makes sense to me.

My Achilles heel

July 16, 2011

What a change a couple of hours makes. From feeling super fit while playing hoops to barely being able to move across the room. I think I ruptured my right Achilles tendon, so I’ve been reading about it ever since. It turns out that RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) is the way to go. My friends have been great at helping me out with Jazzy and supplies and advice, so I feel well cared for. I was feeling very down when I first got home with the injury and was reading just how long a recovery this could entail, and I felt quite helpless while trying to complete routine tasks. I also had to face that I may just have to stop playing sports at a competitive level. Each year over has introduced a brand new injury to me: 40 – Hamstring pull, 41 quadricep pull, 42 – Achilles rupture. I love new experiences, but these aren’t particularly positive ones.

Update 1: I woke up on Sunday and it felt a bit better! I can walk (hobble, really) without a cane (I was using a golf club on Saturday) and it feels sturdier. I’m still going to the doctor tomorrow, but now I’m hopeful that this is just a minor injury to the Achilles and it might not ruin my summer.

Update 2: I called the doctor, and couldn’t get an appointment until Thursday. Once again it feels a little bit better than yesterday though, so I’m still feeling hopeful. If my progress accelerates maybe I’ll get to cancel that appointment. 

Here comes the sun

July 15, 2011

So I was at the beach the other day with a good friend who happens to be a science teacher, and we were discussing the changing sunrise and sunset times that occur over the course of the year. One of the reasons I have considered moving down South in recent years is because I was aware that the amount of daylight increases in the winter as you move closer to the equator. I didn’t really know much more than that about how it works, other than general knowledge about how the seasons work in each hemisphere. Here’s a brief recap: The tilt of the earth remains constant and depending on the location of the Earth around the sun either the northern or the southern hemisphere will be receiving more “direct” sunlight (because the angle is closer to perpendicular). Interestingly, the changing distance from the sun because of the elliptical shape to the orbit has a relatively minor effect on the temperature, though it does result in a slightly warmer winter in the north. So between my conversation with my friend and the subsequent research I did when I went home, I discovered that being closer to the equator results in a more balanced amount of day and night. This makes perfect sense, since we all know that above the Arctic circle they have the constant day effect in the summer and the constant night effect in the winter. This graph I found illustrates it very well. You can see the northern summer from days 85 to 265 quite clearly. I’ve added a line that represents Providence (42.71 degrees) that shows our dip into 8-10 hour days in our winter. I wonder how much less grumpy I’d be in December and January with just a couple hours more daylight.



July 13, 2011

Way back in my first career I was a graphic designer. If you know a bit about design you are probably aware that there are different kinds of designers. Some specialize in illustration, others in page layout, some in logo design and so on. While almost all designers have to do all these things, most will self-identify with their strongest area. I think of myself as a typographer. I have my favorite typestyles and I’d like to think I’m quite skilled at using them with purpose to achieve a desired effect. Well, I was reading the UK version of MacUser on my iPad (I prefer the Brit mags because they tend to expect a bit more of the reader for some reason) and came across a great article by Keith Martin about the ampersand. It is my favorite character in most typefaces (as opposed to fonts, which are specific instances of a typeface, such as 12 point Palatino italic) and of the author of the article as well. What I didn’t know about the ampersand is that it developed from a ligature (which is a special character that merges two or more letters) for the letters e and t  (“et” in Latin means “and”) and gradually developed into the symbol we know today. In some faces you can still see the e&t, though I confess I never noticed it before. It’s meaning is subtly different than simply typing “and” as well; it implies a greater connection than the word and makes sense for proper names of business partners or of a romantically involved couple. I had never really thought about that before either, though I’ve always used it that way.

A fine line

July 10, 2011

My podcast buddies Josh & Chuck did an episode on hate this week. Most of it was pretty straightforward, outlining the difference between anger and hate, and breaking it down into three types of hatred (tossing the word around flippantly – not really hate, hatred of a group of people you don’t know, and hatred of someone who has wronged you personally). But they did provide some interesting stats on who people hate, and I was surprised by this data: 1) Acquaintances 24%, 2) Friends 23%, 3) Family Members 12%, 4) Ex-boyfriends/girlfriends 12%. I definitely thought the “ex” category would dominate this, and to have acquaintances at the top is just bizarre. I would think that someone you’re not close to just wouldn’t be important enough to generate actual hatred, whereas someone you love with all your heart could easily generate that via a bad breakup. Within the Family category it was more predictable with Fathers the most hated at 45%, Mothers at 23%, In-Laws in for 12% (okay, this one seems low), and Siblings accounting for only 3% of intra-family hatred. But it all seems a bit sad to me.