Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Impending Midnight Sun (and other sundries)

It seems to be an annual event - feeling nostalgic for the old days of updating this blog.  A few April posts in each of the past two years make up the entirety of what's been put down here in that time.  The itch is still there, however, and we'll see if it sticks this time round and becomes something more frequent.

Apropos of nothing, at the end of this month I'll be making my way back to Iceland - 13 years (and a handful of weeks) after my first visit.  The idea I have is to try and keep a running record of my visit.  This may prove difficult because there's no way I could hump my tank of a laptop along with me.  It must weigh six or seven pounds and has a 17" monitor.  Not what anyone would call portable... at least in this day and age.

So, the question is, do I invest in a new device?  The old tank still functions well enough although she is beginning to show signs of aging.  The DVD drive couldn't read a recent disc I'd purchased (Næturvaktin, Season 1) and the start-up time is quite slow among other warnings/annoyances.  I've got about three and a half weeks before I leave to make a decision.  Cost effectiveness seems to be the biggest factor at this point.  It's more than likely any recounting of my trip will be done in bulk upon my return home.

Outside of that I see there have been some changes in the Blogger interface since the last time I posted.  Of course, the first thing I did was spruce up the look of the page.  Just made a few, quick adjustments to update it  a bit and I welcome any feedback on the scheme (colors, fonts*, layout, &c.).

Looking forward to checking out the new features.  If it's easier to post content with the updated interface perhaps it will be easier to post in general.  Or perhaps I'll be here in May 2013 saying the same thing.  Who's to say?

That's it for the other sundries.

As for the impending midnight sun, the Iceland jaunt encompasses an extended Thursday-Monday weekend from 31 May through 4 June. Confession: while it won't yet be a full midnight sun while I'm there, with a sunset around midnight and sunrise somewhere in the 3:00 a.m. hour, it'll be pretty close.  No matter, I'm looking forward to whenever the Sun sets and rises... because it will be much different from what I'm accustomed to.  And I must say that's fun.  And also why I want to return during winter to experience the other side of this heavily weighted coin of the Sun.

This is the Hotel Reykjavík Centrum where I'll be staying.  Based on reviews, it seems a pretty good choice.  It's in the old city center on one of the oldest streets in Reykjavík - Aðalstræti.  After viewing maps and reading reviews, it appears to be a short walk from the action but just far enough to be insulated from the cacophony of early morning street revelers... especially beneficial when you're not one of those cacophonous revelers.

Okay, that's all for this revival.  This is a terrible attempt but, "Þakka þér fyrir að lesa þetta." (Thank you for reading this.)

More to come about/from Iceland for sure... well, perhaps.

*I chose a font called 'Rock Star' (I think) for the title because it closely resembles my printed handwriting.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Nuclear Issue - Today and Yesterday

With the recent earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last month and the subsequent crisis at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant I've been pondering nuclear power's place in our world.  Not continuously or obsessively but much more frequently than in the recent past.

Foregoing the merits of fledgling alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, and the like, the energy debate is the same as it's always been:

We can't rely on fossil fuels forever, for obvious environmental and availability reasons.  Nor can we run the risks of an entirely nuclear power structure due to the instant calamities when things don't go as planned (Fukushima, Chernobyl) coupled with the generations-long (centuries-long is more like it) danger of containing the spent radioactive materials once they've been sucked of all their usefulness to us.  Those spent materials may be useless for producing energy but they sure can mess things up if they're not properly contained.

I'm well aware that this is painfully simplified and I support all efforts for alternative energy production.  This dichotomy is only being used to set up the crux of this post.  So, please, if you happen upon this backwater of the internet and have a gazillion ideas on 'sustainable, renewable, etc., etc.' energy - that's great.  Just exhibit some reserve in demonstrating how ignorant I am on the subject.  I'm already well aware of that.

That being said, it seems there was a time when I was much more enlightened on the subject of nuclear power.  In fact, I've already penned a document on it.

It wasn't published in a newspaper, magazine, or science periodical.  It wasn't even published on the Internet.  To be fair, the Internet barely existed when it was written.

This document was written when the backbone of the modern Internet was still three years away, "Ordinary People" won the Oscar for best picture, and "Sailing" by Christopher Cross was both song and record of the year.  This document was written when I was ten years old.

There was a program in my elementary school called 'Dimensions'.  It was, as much as I can remember, an extra-academic program for select students to enhance their educational experience.  One of the projects we worked on was to have the students create newspaper-like editorials on important current events of the time.  Or, at least, the events remembered from the previous decade by those who were just a decade old.

I don't recall whether we were assigned our topics or chose them ourselves, perhaps from some predetermined list.  Regardless, my current event topic was the 1979 nuclear meltdown of Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.

Created and written some time in 1980, here is the project's introduction and my contribution:

Right before the beginning of 1980, we started to do a lot about things that happened in the "Seventies."  We finally decided to make a book.  So, we picked some of the biggest events of the "Seventies" and put them together to make this book.  Each person in the program wrote one article.  We all agreed that one of the biggest events of the "Seventies" was the taking of hostages in Iran.  So, we would like to dedicate this book to the fifty Americans held hostage in Iran.

We hope you enjoy our book!

Dimensions 1979-80

Three Mile Island

In the dead of night, the hulks of four 372-X cooling towers and two high-domed nuclear reactor container buildings were scarcely discernable (sic) above the gentle waters of the Susquehanna River, eleven miles southeast of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Inside the brightly lit control room of Metropolitan Edsion's (sic) unit 2, technicians on the lobster shift, April 4, faced a tranquil, even boring watch.  Suddenly at 4 A.M., alarm lights blinked red on their instrument panels.  A siren whooped a warning.

In the understated jargon of the nuclear power industry, an "event" had occured (sic).  In plain English, it was the beginning of the worst accident in the history of the U.S. nuclear power production, and of a long, often confused nightmare that threw the future of the nuclear industry into question.

The problem was solved that a huge turbine engine which generates electricity had "tripped."  At first, the technicians thought that it would be easy to fix.  However, they were wrong.

Radioactive steam and gas filled the air around the plant for the next several days.  The Governor, Richard Thornburgh, suggested that women and preschool children leave the area.

Engineering tried to cool down the "core."  If they couldn't cool it down, a "melt-down" would occur, where gases would escape and eat through the concrete walls.  Luckily this did not happen, although it did get people angry enough.  However, the fight still goes on....... NO NUKES!!!!!!.........


A bit disjointed with some lack of continuity and obvious spelling and grammatical errors for sure.  But we were still using mimeograph... and I was ten.  Cut me a break, eh?

What I find interesting about this piece is two-fold:

The first and most obvious is that not much has changed in the 30 years hence regarding the safety and security of nuclear energy.  It is still an amazing way for us to meet the growing energy demands of an ever-growing world population.  Many nuclear power plants across the globe are silently, albeit dangerously, producing power for millions of people.  But how safe is it?  We can't rely on it forever, for sure.  At some point our comeuppance is due.  Are we really prepared for that day?  We've been relatively lucky up to this point.  Relatively being the operative word.

We may understand how to harness the Dragon for its power... but do we really know how to control that Dragon when it breaks our reins?

The second interesting point I've taken from this long, almost lost* document is - at least I know my affinity for ellipses, excessive commas, and "quotation" marks has been a long and deep-seeded affectation of my writing style for just about my entire life.  At least since I've been able to put somewhat coherent thoughts and sentences together in writing.  Although, I'll let you be the judge on the coherency bit.

Franklin Public Schools taught me well - but one of my English teachers could've pointed out at least one of these foibles.  On second thought, they probably did... I just never listened.

*Thanks to my long-time, childhood and still good friend M.T. for preserving this document for all these years.  He produced it at a Poker Night we had a few years ago and let me borrow it for reminiscing.  It is now 31 years old and is filled with the writings and ramblings of many pre-teens and their recollections of the 1970s - the decade of our youth.  I'm thinking of transcribing the entire "book," either here on this blog or in its own space.

If you're interested in reading more or were a part of this project back at Oak Street Elementary School in Franklin, MA in 1980 please let me know.

p.s. As a note of pride and a nod to my ten year old self, I have to say I quite like the tone-setting sentence "A siren whooped a warning." that ended the opening paragraph.  Thank you, Miss Modess (I hope that's the correct spelling) - I'm sure you helped me with that one!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Breakin' (In) 2 - Electric Boogaloo


I'm shocked and awed by the number of comments I've received on my last couple of posts.  Something tells me that I'm not paying attention.  There has to be some sort of new link system or whatever that sends people to different blogs.

I'm appreciative of the legitimate bloggers and readers that have left comments:  [Wayne; Alices Wonderland; Lauralaie; DanielPhillips; ishmael; Shirley E Hardy; Dave Bennett; Professor Howdy]

Thank you all.  As surprised that I am there are that many new 'readers', thank you.  I don't post often but that's my own personal quirk.  I'm hoping to change that.  Welcome.  However, there were still some questionable comments left on my last post that seemed a bit dubious.  I deleted them.  Sue me.

I suppose I'm just not cool with people taking advantage of other people's work for self-promotion disguised as admiration.  If you leave a comment unrelated to the topic and directing people to another blog or site, you're a douche.

I'm not sure who - or what - owns "blogger" these days (note to self: look into that) but I've had mega comments recently and I only make note of it because it's completely different from the response I've seen in the previous 4 years I've been posting nonsense here.

On one hand, I'm glad that people out there are reading my blog.  On the other hand, it seems it's becoming something to look out for - if I'm going to be continuously battling spam comments and bullshit content, I may be better off going elsewhere...

Anyway, that's to suss another day.


The subject of this post is the fact that my neighbor's house was broken into yesterday.

As I arrived home around 7:40 p.m. yesterday, I noticed a load of police cars jammed into the driveway of my immediate neighbor.  Four or five of them were packed in - three in the driveway, two on the road... It was quite disconcerting.

I had no sooner finished my dinner (a take-away sandwich from the shop up the street) when a policeman rapped on my door.

Answering the door, the officer asked me if I'd noticed anything 'out of the ordinary' that morning.  Unfortunately, I hadn't.

There would've been nothing better for me than if I was able to say, "yeah, I saw a couple of suspect dudes in such-and-such a vehicle that I didn't quite get."  However, I hadn't seen anything - or, at least, nothing I remembered.

The officer mentioned that a neighbor across the street saw a silver (or grey?) pick-up truck and asked if I had seen the same.  I hadn't.

I feel for my neighbors, as they've just only moved in within the past 3-8 months.  My bad for not knowing exactly when they'd arrived.

However selfishly, my concern goes towards whether my home is the next target or not.  I've made it through day one, post-neighbor-break in, and I'm feeling pretty good.  My house is a bit more 'visible' when it comes to the immediate neighborhood... but it's still a bit freaky, all things considered.

So, for now, things are good... for me, anyway.  I'm not happy that my neighbors have had this happen to them but, in the sense of personal preservation, I'm glad that it wasn't me dealing with the aftermath.

Perhaps this will inspire me to make acquaintance with my (recently) new neighbors... and we can work together on keeping our shared place more safe.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Couple of Observations

I've noticed a big increase in the number of crap comments posted on my posts (what few there are).  Typically, I can tell who it was that left the comment based on user name or content.  Sometimes it takes a bit more research - but, based on the content, it's apparent that it was a) someone I know personally or b) someone who (somehow) stumbled upon this random splattering of rubbish and was genuinely commenting on the content.

The people in the "b" group are few and far between, to be sure. Nonetheless, they're more than welcome - and well appreciated.  Thank you, group "b" people!

(obviously, I well appreciate the folks in group "a" as well)

However, since the new year, I've had loads of comment "dumps" (all in some sort of Asian symbolism) and individual "spam" comments.

You know what I say to those people/machines?  Fuck you, you parasitic douches.

I really don't understand it.  Either you're trying to get some bullshit virus or spyware downloaded - or you're trying to get people to link to your site and buy some sort of crap product.  In either case, you suck.

You think you're clever.  You think you may get one over on someone.  Truth is, you're not clever.  Nor are you a success in getting one over.  What it means is, you're a fucking loser.

There's no debating that.

I'm well aware this will do nothing to stop the process (and may even attract more, though I'm suspicious whether the content is ever read to begin with).  I just wanted to whinge about the fact that these assholes exist.

And the fact that they suck bollocks.

Another observation I've had: I much prefer Kari Byron on Mythbusters than her maternity leave replacement, Jessi Combs.  Nothing against Jessi.  I simply prefer Kari:

After all, who said science has to be boring?

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy Flippin' New Year

All in all, I suppose it was a fairly decent decade, the 'aughts'.  My personal best accomplishment has to be the purchasing of my first home in the spring of 2008.  Late in the decade as it was, it's the biggest change I've made in the past 10 years.  Outside of that, the most drastic of changes - not withstanding the geo-political nonsense we find ourselves in as a nation - have to be those of the local sports scene and my personal investment in it.  For better or for worse.

When the decade began, it had been 80+ years since the Red Sox last won a World Series.  The Celtics hadn't been NBA champs since the 1985-86 season.  The Bruins were on a stretch lasting twice as long, going back 28 years to 1972.  And the youngest of the local four franchises, the Patriots, had never experienced the opportunity of being labeled 'Champions'.

At the time, I'd classify my sports enthusiasm as being above average.  I was engaged enough in all of them to be aware of the ongoing successes (and failures) of each team but my team of choice was the Boston Bruins.  That was the team I most hoped would get back to the top and take home the Stanley Cup.  Unfortunately, it appeared that owner Jeremy Jacobs and management (Harry Sinden and Mike O'Connell) seemed not to have the same desire.  At least it appeared that way based on the player contract decisions being made.

I had (and still have) all but lost any interest in the Celtics, and the NBA in particular, due to the way the NBA devolved into a me-first league filled with showboaters and seemed hellbent on promoting a player-first, team-second league.  I still feel this way.  I don't think I'll ever be interested in the NBA again - not like I was as a kid and my teen years.

Baseball wasn't a huge priority, either, but I was interested in the Sox even while they were fielding abominations of teams.  Joining a fantasy baseball league increased my interest greatly, however.  As did Pedro Martinez, who landed in Boston via trade before the 1998 season.  Luckily, that also coincided somewhat with the selling of the team to the current ownership four years later, when the team's fortunes seemed to take a turn for the better.

The Pats?  There was excitement which went back to the Bledsoe signing in the early-90s, and the hiring of Bill Parcells as head coach, but they never seemed to be good enough to compete with the elite in the NFL.

However, everything changed on a snowy (very snowy) night in January 2001 during a playoff game against the Oakland Raiders at Foxboro stadium.  I won't get into the details but the win they pulled out in that game was the beginning of a heightening of my sports enthusiasm that would last for the next three to four years.

I was at the house of a friend for "Italian Night" for that playoff game.  A core group of 'chefs' spent the day in his kitchen making all sorts of delicious Italian food - home-made pastas, timpano, deserts, and the like.  The snow had been falling all day and night and, needless to say, the beer and wine was going down just as smoothly.  When the game ended, we all rushed out of the house and - with the lights of the stadium visible in the distance - hooted and hollered in jubiliation.  Snow angels were made.  It was delightful.

The Patriots went on to shock the high-powered St. Louis Rams in the New Orleans Superdome to take the franchise's first ever Super Bowl victory.  The Lombardi Trophy belonged to the "lowly" Patsies.  Unbelievable.

At that point, the Bruins were still terrible; the Red Sox were getting marginally better; and the Celtics managed a decent showing in the NBA playoffs the following year.  But that was it.  Still, the Patriots Super Bowl victory had the effect of turning up the volume on the station in my brain that was tuned to the local sports scene.

Then the avalanche began.  The Patriots, led by young quarterback Tom Brady and the seemingly infallible mind of head coach Bill Belichick and his equally competent assistant staff, went on to capture two more Lombardis - back to back - in 2003 and 2004.  Patriots euphoria ruled the land (at least New Eng-'land').  I was hooked.  During the stretch, it was an odd Sunday afternoon when my mates and I weren't found cooking up delicious food while watching the Pats battle whatever hapless bunch happened to be on the schedule that week.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox were putting together pieces of their own and quietly improving their squad, summer after summer.  2003 was a precursor of things to come, as they managed to find themselves putting their "ying" against their forever-linked "yang," the New York Yankees, in the American League Championship series.  New York prevailed, going on only to lose the World Series to the (what?) Florida Marlins.

Although it is de rigeur around these parts to pin that ALCS series loss on Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, and pin the moniker of "Aaron 'Bleeping' Boone" on the Yankee that hit the clinching home run, the truth is, Wakefield pitched his ass off in that series.  He had come into the game on very little rest to try and keep the series alive.  The bottom line is, he was simply out of gas.  A microcosm of how the entire team was playing, if we're being honest.

As previously mentioned, the Patriots' third Super Bowl win in early 2004 (second consecutive, and third in four years) was somewhat of a salve for that bitter disappointment we were left with in October, 2003.

Looking back it's easy to point to 2004 as the apex year of my enthusiasm for all things sport in the region I call home.  The Patriots were Super Bowl champs (again) and, once again, the fall of 2004 pitted the ancient rivals in the ALCS in the MLB playoffs.  In spectacular fashion, the Red Sox managed to defeat the Yankees in the seven game series after falling behind 3-0.  It was the first time in the history of the MLB playoffs that a team had come from a three game deficit to win a series.  The details are well documented, so I won't even pretend to have any further insight on that magnificent series.  The more important point is that this, this was the pinnacle of sports nirvana.

Not only did the local nine eliminate a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series.  They did it against their life-long rival!  Amazing!  They then went on to win their first World Series in 86 years.  And, sadly, this is where the wheels fall off the bus.

You would think that such an impressive feat would only strengthen a fan's love and enthusiasm for a team, a sport, and even sport in general.  It may have done for some.  However, as I alluded to at the outset of this post, it actually had the opposite effect on me.  For better or for worse, right?

You see, with success comes adulation.  And with adulation comes blind loyalty.  And where success, adulation, and blind loyalty can be found - so can opportunism.  And, I'm afraid, it is the accompanying opportunism that eventually brought me from an enthusiastic supporter of some of my favorite teams to a more cynical, passive acquaintance of them.

As the local teams gained more and more success, the fanaticism grew and grew.  This, of course, wasn't happening in a bubble.  The local television and radio networks and corporations were also well aware of the clout that all the winning had brought to the teams.  In time, the airwaves and businesses - from the largest corporations to the smallest mom-and-pop shops - did everything they could to associate themselves with the  teams.

The Patriots and, most saturating, Red Sox brands were everywhere.  Fueling the seemingly never-ending appetite of the general public, everything from coffee shops to the nightly local news did everything they could to take advantage of the immense popularity of the champions.  The onslaught was (and still is) incessant.

It has become an overwhelming force that is impossible to avoid.  For me, it has tarnished what were supposed to be pleasant memories of the successes of my favorite teams.  I'm not saying that I'd prefer it if the Pats still don't have a Super Bowl win or the Red Sox were hurtling towards 100 years without a World Series win - that's not the point.

My contention is, with all the recent success and ensuing hype, it seems the majority of 'fans' these days have developed an entitled attitude.  That their teams (as if they have something to do with their success) should always have the best of the best - and nothing less will do.  It's an impossible scenario, yet people whinge and moan about every single game, every individual play, that doesn't go "right."

It is these things, and I suppose my own aging, errr... maturation, that have combined to make me more likely to watch a History Channel program on the French Revolution over a Patriots game on Sunday afternoon.  Not every Sunday but this is where I am, this past Sunday an example.

I'm still interested in seeing the Red Sox and Patriots do well.  The Celtics, I suppose the same, albeit without the same level of interest.  However, my discontent is that this attitude is quickly permeating the so-called fanbase of the the one team that I still watch with intensity - the Bruins.

It's almost a certainty that, in this day and age, if the Bruins do manage the same success - if they eventually win the Stanley Cup - the same fate may be in store.

New England has always been one of the nation's hotbeds of hockey.  The college teams in the area bear that out quite well.  A championship for the local professional team is something I hope to see - and sooner rather than later.  I just hope I can withstand the inevitable deluge and it doesn't sour my enthusiasm for the last vestige of my withering appreciation for professional sport.

I suppose the old adage still holds sway here: Be careful what you wish for.

Happy New Year to all...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Grand Gaga Day

Today was a perfect October day for me. Cool temperatures, some rain, a quiet Saturday, one more day of the weekend lurking...

Reminds me of one of my favorite Björk songs.

In that vein, I have to say I've wildly underestimated this, how you say, 'Lady Gaga'?

Based on the short audience I witnessed on Saturday Night Live this evening, I have to look into this more.

What I saw was a bit of early David Bowie and a bit of errrr.. something. I'm on the case.

Wait... what?