Jan 23

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

It was a shame that Robby Novak had to grow up. (He’s 18 or so now.) They ended that amazing series so he could concentrate on being a kid, and that makes perfect sense in every respect of course. Still, you might have found yourself hoping that they’d pass the torch. You could have written a storyline about that — a storyline of positivity, of course.

I remember when I was first introduced to this interview, some 12 or so years ago, perhaps. It came to me as part of a conversation about the larger message, the work incomplete, and the issue at hand. All of that was, and is, true. And the interview is remarkable. The first thing you notice is the composition of the shot. But it won’t be the last thing you notice.

This was an important interview, absolutely worth your time. Go ahead and bookmark it if you can’t watch it all right now, but do watch it. And then, maybe, like me, be grateful that we have places available to dip our toes into such important source material.

The world needs more three-day weekends. I say that with all of the respect today deserves. There are a great many important people and ideas to celebrate. We could only benefit by having more opportunities to acknowledge and learn, and our communities would be better for the service. Having a few more four-day work weeks would be a nice byproduct, sure, but that’s not the point I’m after here. I figure one a month, March through October, would be a fine civic contribution.

And, on some of those days, we’d even have nice weather. Law of averages and all that. Saturday we had some sun early. It was gray and cold all day Sunday. It rained most of today. The next seven days we’ll be between 28 and 53 degrees. We might get some sun two or three of those days. We might get some snow or rain on three of those days.

Ninety more days until spring.

We played a few hands on dominos yesterday afternoon. The cat, who only swatted at the tiles one time, managed to eek out a win.

Which makes this as good a place as any to put this week’s installment of the most popular feature on the blog. It’s time to check in with the kitties.

A few days ago I was able to catch Phoebe in shadow and light. It’s a moody image, both dark and mysterious and bright and shiny. Also, stay away from her tennis ball.

Poseidon has placed an order online for a deliver, and he’s spending a fair amount of time waiting on the delivery guy to bring it to him.

I guess he didn’t spring for the overnight delivery. Smart cat.

He got a bit trapped the other night. This cat, that always wants to go outside — they’re strictly indoor pets — has to have his under-the-cover time to keep warm, you see. And if a fuzzy blanket has been deployed Phoebe will find her way to sit on it. So Saturday night …

He looks thrilled by that development, doesn’t he? Look at those eyes. He’s positively delighted to find his blanket time being intruded upon. He allowed me to take three quick photos before he left in disgust.

This is the section where I’m sharing things that, judged too good to close, have been sitting in open tabs for far too long. Today’s first tab features a poem. I ran across it near the end of 2021. That’s a long time to have a tab open, in my estimation. (But I’ve got older tabs, though, as you’ll eventually see.) Lovely poem though.

Keep Your Faith in Beautiful Things

Keep your faith in beautiful things;
in the sun when it is hidden,
in the Spring when it is gone.
And then you will find that Duty and Service and Sacrifice—
all the old ogres and bugbears of —
have joy imprisoned in their deepest dungeons!
And it is for you to set them free —
the immortal joys that no one —
No living soul, or fate, or circumstance—
Can rob you of, once you have released them.

It was written by Roy Rolfe Gilson, Spanish-American War veteran, newspaperman, author and, finally, an Episcopal rector. Born in Iowa, in 1875, Rev. Gilson died in 1933, and is buried in Maryland, where he had served in a parish. He wrote for papers in Michigan. He’s quoted in his obituary. “The best known of my works is ‘In the Morning Glow‘, and is not a child’s book, but an attempt to preserve in words something of that exquisite loveliness of the American home as it has been in its simplicity, and never more beautiful than when seen through the eyes of a little child, to whom the father is a hero and the mother a heroine, and even the toy soldiers have an identity and name.

“It is never the bizarre or unusual that makes me wish to work, but the poetry and comedy in everyday life, in the common lot … If my stories are idyllic, it is not because I wish to write pretty things, but because I have a friendly eye for those secret quests on which we pass each other disguised in foolishness, but wearing beneath a lovely raiment of dreams.”

You can read the entire book, which he published in 1908, at that link.

(So I guess I’ll have that tab open for a while … )

(I just read the first chapter — sweet and innocent and charmingly sentimental, but you knew what was coming. I’ll be reading the rest.)

If memory serves, I googled this because of something I read in a Quora answer about some job interview techniques. I’d never heard of this, neumonic, or seen the concept spelled out, and so it seemed like something to learn about.

The STAR method is a structured manner of responding to a behavioral-based interview question by discussing the specific situation, task, action, and result of the situation you are describing.

More: What is the STAR method?

The STAR method is an interview technique that gives you a straightforward format you can use to tell a story by laying out the Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

Situation: Set the scene and give the necessary details of your example.
Task: Describe what your responsibility was in that situation.
Action: Explain exactly what steps you took to address it.
Result: Share what outcomes your actions achieved.

By using these four components to shape your anecdote, it’s much easier to share a focused answer, providing the interviewer with “a digestible but compelling narrative of what a candidate did,” says Muse Career Coach Al Dea, founder of CareerSchooled. “They can follow along, but also determine based on the answer how well that candidate might fit with the job.”

I suspect this structure is useful in some circumstances. But in others, well, there are a lot of odd interview … let’s call them techniques … out there.

And now I can close these two tabs, meaning on one of my phone’s browsers I now only have … 40 tabs open. Progress!

I had a 30 mile ride on Saturday, including some outrageous (for me) power numbers. To be honest, I am not yet clear on how to interpret these things. Occasionally my watts look more impressive than others, and I’ll google them, just to see how they all measure up. On those days, I have almost-weekend-warrior sort of numbers.

For instance, Saturday I hit 1,048 watts on a sprint. What’s that mean? It means I was standing up and going hard while simultaneously trying to keep my bike in the trainer. That’s pretty close to my recorded maximum. Apparently world-class sprint track cyclists can touch 2,200 watts. So … I’m not that guy.

But then I was going up a hill and looked at the watts in the HUD graphic and …

That’s on a climb and, for me, impressive. I am in no way a climber, but I have lately been getting over small punchy hills in an almost-timely fashion. I’ve just had brief moments of good legs the last few days, basically. There’s something to be said for riding a lot. And that something is “Your legs will feel tired all of the time, but when you get them moving … ”

2023 Zwift route tracker: After today’s 25-mile ride I have completed 34 of the routes on Zwift, and there are 86 to go.

Jan 23

That’s embarrassing

It is remarkable to me how light things get when it is time to go back to work. It seems having a normal schedule prevents me from finding and doing fun things to tell you about here. The nerve of the real world, no?

So this is my day, today, be it ever so humble.

I did 16 miles in about 45 minutes and then quit. Everything was wrong. It was just immediately fast and hard and not at all what I was hoping for, which was a ride that would have lasted about twice as long. Instead, I had a bit of mild-to-medium nausea, there was no more energy, and I was threatening to overheat.

I bonked. Bonked like a rookie who knows nothing about nutrition, and did it in under an hour. Very weird. But, I guess, lunch had been some time back and maybe there hadn’t been enough carbs. There certainly wasn’t enough glycogen.

I felt a bit better after dinner, at least. But by then I was just … tired. So the rest of this isn’t terribly substantial, sorry.

But, hey, I set five PRs on Strava segments. And I finished 8th out of 460 on one of the sprints. I did the math and I managed to hold 30 mph through that segment with no virtual draft, or even a real awareness that I was about to enter a sprint. (Also, I am in no way a sprinter. Or anything else, really.)

Here’s a quick update to the Re-Listening project. I know, I just put two pieces in this same space yesterday. But those were to get caught up from before the holidays. Since I drove to two places in town yesterday to run errands I spent more time in the car. It’s an odd thing about temporal mechanics around here, but it takes 27 minutes to drive nine miles. Between that and waiting in line at the car wash, I managed to listen all the way through another CD.

I actually skipped one CD yesterday, because life is too short to listen to awful music. A record promoter gave me this disc, and I couldn’t get out of it. I should have tried harder, I know. I knew it then, too, when he compared the lead singer to “an off-key Kurt Cobain.” This was, mind you, a silly one-off conversation 26 years ago and I remember that comment. How out of place. How weird. How wrong. But at least the guy got to drop a name, I guess.

Anyway, the guy singing on that CD wasn’t Kurt Cobain, but closer to Chris Cornell. He didn’t have all of the tricks, and he sounds simultaneously bored and impressed with himself. The guitarist is noodling around, seemingly aware of the limitations by his chord structure or what he had to play around, gamely looking for something new and different. But there’s not much variation, and life is too short for awful music.

I wanted, here, to do the thing where I look all of those guys up and say they all went on to be successful restauranteur, fire fighters or boat charter captains. All four guys have incredibly common names, though. So one of them could be a judge. Another might be an auctioneer. One is probably just really good at D&D. The guy that did the cover photos has had a good run as a photojournalist. Seems to be in Florida now.

Anyway, after that came my 1996 cassettee-to-CD upgrade for the Hootie and the Blowfish debut. Probably you’ve heard of it. It finished seventh on Billboard’s 1990s pop list. Only Alanis Morissette, Whitney Houston, Shania Twain, Garth Brooks, the Titanic soundtrack and Celine Dion, respectively, fared better. They won a Grammy and were certified platinum 21 times in the United States. So, yeah, I needed to get an updated copy, I guess. Because you never heard this stuff on the radio.

(Aside: Lilly Haydn was, is, and likely always will be, incredible.)

Anyway, I really dug the band (last August their second album, Fairweather Johnson appeared on the Re-Listening project)
and I still do. Something about the Carolina yelling appeals to me.

Oh, there was a 25th anniversary edition released in 2019? Guess I should pick up a copy of that.

But, first, I’m going to sleep off the bleh feeling.

Jan 23

Don’t move anything: all the regular site elements are caught up

Today? Oh, back to the regular. I actually went to work. Did a few work things, saw some people. Thought I should start a list: People I’ve Asked About The Holidays. Over the next seven or eight days I will, no doubt, ask someone that same question twice. Three times if they are really unlucky.

I’d also like to develop an app for the phone that listens to all of my jokes and notes the phones around at the time. Then, the next time I start wind up for that same joke, it buzzes most annoyingly if it notes the same people around. We’ll name it Asa. Avoiding Social Awkwardness.

I even whipped up the logo.

It symbolizes the circular nature of one’s jokes, you see.

Because we tell our best material over and over.

Now, to just program the thing, and get around all of the many and considerable privacy issues with anonymity decryption protocols.

See, I’ve thought of everything. Except that I know not how to build it.

After work I went to the auto parts store. It is a building where they have parts. They are, generally, parts for your car. The interior of the store is helpfully organized in zones. And I went to the zone of the auto parts store that holds the light bulbs. Turns out the oil change guy last month was partly right. He said my blinker was out. My blinker is fine. My marker light, a term I learned only this afternoon, was the one that was out. The market light is the one behind the yellow lens. I thought that was the fog light, but, no, that’s different.

There are two light bulbs that seem similar to the busted marker light bulb I pulled out in the parking lot. And a guy that works in the point of sale zone of the store helped me find the right one. Online indices are wonderful things.

While he was doing that, though, someone walked out with a battery. Just carried it right out of the store. He’d been talking about it with them. made eye contact at the door, got into his truck and drove off. We all watched him leave the parking lot. The three guys working just shrugged.

I purchased my two marker light bulbs, walked outside, installed one in the socket, successfully tested the replacement and drove to the car wash.

My car needed it, but you don’t need 400 words on three days of dry weather, the long line at “Wash World” and those wonderful sounds the drive through wash makes as the machinery works its way around. Well, anyway, my car is cleaner, but my windshield was, for some reason, blurry after that.

You just can’t get good robotic help these days.

Let’s get back to the Re-Listening project — the one where I’m playing all of my old CDs, in the order I acquired them, and write about them here. These aren’t reviews, as such. Just memories and a fun excuse to put up too many videos. It’s a whimsy, as most music should be.

These, by the way, were things that got played just before the holiday break. I am, as ever, in arrears.

And first up is a maxi-single. What’s a maxi-single? So glad you asked. A maxi-single is a release with more than the usual two tracks of an A-side song and a B-side song. This is a Rusted Root maxi-single, and it has five tracks. I am sure this was a college station radio giveaway. Also, it is still good.

The title track is up first, a Santana cover that does the original a bit of justic.

And before you wonder, Rusted Root produced seven studio albums and a live record between 1992 and 2012. Four of them landed on the Billboard 200, and two of those in the top half of the chart. One is certified gold, the other is platinum. They’re not hardly a flash in the pan.

Rusted Root is one of those bands that have a lot of musicians come through the band over the years. And, I must confess, I am not always clear on who is where. But let me just say this. There are some talented front porch pickers playing on this thing, and that’s about as high a compliment I will offer a musician not paid to play orchestral music in formal wear.

Three of the songs on the maxi-single are live, including the one that was the point, one of the ones you definitely remember, and the one that still shows up in commercials and TV shows from time-to-time.

The band itself seems to be done, or on hiatus, but many of the former members are stilly playing music. (A lot of them have been in Hot Tuna, turns out.) The lead singer is still making music, and others, including the most prominent female vocalist and the original drummer, are dividing their time between their own music and things like teaching and entrepreneurial projects.

I was hoping one of them might be a software developer, someone that could help me with the Asa project.

The next CD is from Big Mountain, another freebie I picked up because, if you were a kid of a certain era you were issued at least one post-Marley reggae album as a matter of procedure.

And, honestly, unless you line things up just right, a little reggae goes a long way for me. I appreciate some of the historical elements of the form, and my lay ear respects the musicianship, and they’re still at it, but it isn’t mine.

Which is maybe why I have no real fixed memories of this CD in particular.

This is one of the later tracks on the record, and it’s a TV studio performance. This 1995 song is still topical, of course.

The previous year they’d released their cover of “Baby I Love Your Way,” which peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100. That was their biggest pop moment. This record, “Resistance” didn’t follow up with commercial success, but they did release three singles from this one, and recorded seven albums since then. They finished last year playing in India. They’ll be touring locally in California early this spring, their 34th year of making music.

I finished Rick Atkinson’s The British Are Coming tonight. I was wrong, where he leaves us. The book ends after the Battle of Princeton, and the maneuvering immediately after. These were the circumstances that set up the Forage War in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I wonder if that’ll appear in the next book of the trilogy. As I said yesterday, this is Tolstoy meets Burns, the two-time Pulitzer winner embracing completely the role as a popular historian.

And he’s got seven more years of the story to tell. The epilogue covered John the Painter, so, I assume, it’s going to get grim in a hurry, when the new installment is published.

The next line of his acknowledgements, which runs several pages after 564 pages of maps and another hundred-and-change of notes, thanks Queen Elizabeth II, but there’s nothing here telling me when the next book is coming out.

Maybe in 2024, just in time for my fake phone app, then.

Dec 22

Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden, part four

We visited the holiday train show, featuring 25 trains and almost 200 miniature buildings made of bark, leaves, and other materials. I took a lot of photos of the models of those historic and iconic places. Here are some of them. (Part one is here. Here is part two. See part three here.)

Radio City’s four-tiered auditorium was the world’s largest when it opened in 1932. But the model here might be one of the smallest in the world.

Right next to the entertainment venue is Saks Fifth Avenue, which is just around the corner and two-tenths of a mile away in real life.

Four miles uptown, you can catch a show at the center of American culture, the Apollo.

The neo-classical theater opened in 1913. Seventy years later it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. More than a million people visit the Apollo each year.

In between them, in real life, anyway, is The Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the world’s largest art museums.

The actual museum, some quarter mile in length, is actually a combination of more than 20 pre-existing structures, but most aren’t visible from outside. I wonder if the model makers took that detail to heart when they built this version.

Here’s a model showing the Roosevelt Island lighthouse, which has been a site from the East River since 1872. It occupies the northernmost point of the island between Manhattan and Long Island.

Gothic lighthouses are some of the less aesthetically appealing lighthouses, but I’ll take the model. About 50 feet tall, the light was operated until about 1940. A restoration was completed in 1998. It was added to the the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and, because, I guess, New York has a more exacting set of standards, it was named a city landmark in 1976.

The LuEsther T. Mertz Library is located at the New York Botanical Garden, which is where this exhibit is held. I didn’t realize this at the time, which is probably just as well. It would have made me dizzy. This model is about 1,300 feet, as the crow flies, from the building that inspired it.

Begging the question, where do they store all these models when they aren’t on display here? Begging a further question, why doesn’t every one of these have a “NO TOUCHING” sign nearby? Begging a still-further question, how are all of the visitors resisting the urge to touch all of these?

Anyway, the Renaissance Revival style building was designed in 1896 and finished in 1901. And the Mertz was the first museum in the nation with a collection focused exclusively on botany.

And now I’m dizzy. This is a miniature of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. We are standing in that building for that photograph.

That central dome is the big room where this model is displayed. Built between 1899 and 1922, it has been renovated four or five times over the last years. The conservatory is the botanical garden’s main draw, in particular for the palm and cacti exhibits, and also because it houses events like this.

Here’s the representation of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. The real one, opened in 1909 connects Queens to Manhattan. For a few years, it was the longest cantilever in North America.

It was named for the former New York City mayor in 2011. This bridge, Wikipedia tells me, is the first entry point into Manhattan for runners of the New York City Marathon. It is the last exit off the island if you’re doing the Five Boro Bike Tour, which sounds fun.

Now we come to the Lorillard Snuff Mill, now known as the Lillian and Amy Goldman Stone Mill. Built in 1840, it is the country’s oldest existing tobacco manufacturing building. This is also a part of the botanical garden.

The Lorillards moved their business to New Jersey in 1870. The city bought the land and gave it to the New York Botanical Garden. It was renovated in the 1950s and was again restored in 2010, a $10.5 million affair. There are offices and catering there now. They also host weddings. In 2019, they were charging between $2,250 and $2,750 for “the newly refurbished, farm chic stone mill” offering “a paramount combination of historic charm and modern comforts.”

Finally, this is the first, and last, model you see. And it is giant. When Macy’s Herald Square opened at 34th Street and Broadway, in 1902, it was so far removed from the rest of the city’s shopping that they had a steam wagonette bringing customers 20 blocks uptown.

The real building is 2.5 million square feet, half of which is retail space, making it the largest department store in the United States. By the 1930s the global designation for the largest retail had moved to Australia, but this Macy’s is still among the largest in the world. Those numbers are abstractions, so I looked this up. The mall near where I grew up has 1.4 million square feet of retail, and there’s something like 150 stores in there. Or, put another way, the total square footage of that Macy’s is about 6 times larger than NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building, you know, where they build the large pre-manufactured space vehicle components. The Willis Tower, in Chicago, is twice as large as the Herald Square store. Today’s largest retailer, Wikipedia assures me, is Shinsegae Centum City, in South Korea, is a mall more than twice as large.

The Magic of Macy’s is in this miniature, too. This is actually a giant planter.

And that’s a fitting for a botanical garden, and a fitting place for this series of posts to end. (Part one is here. Here is part two. See part three here.) I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I have, and almost as much as I enjoyed the visit.

Dec 22

Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden, part three

We visited the holiday train show. The trains — all 25 of them cruising around on a half-mile of of track — were … fine. What they are weaving around — almost 200 miniature buildings made of bark, leaves, and other materials — is the real attraction. I took a lot of photos of the models of these historic and iconic places. Here are some of them. (Part one is here and part two is here.)

This is Boscobel, which was built for a man named States Dyckman, a British loyalist who maintained and, perhaps, grew his wealth. He was said to be, perhaps, a bit unscrupulous. But the real version of this house was originally on 250 acres. Construction began in 1803, but Dyckman never saw it completed. He died in 1806, his wife and kid were able to move in a few years later.

The federal-style house, with its delicate front facade family and large amounts of glass, stayed in the family until 1920. By 1955 it was scheduled to be demolished. One contractor bid $35 for the job, but it was ultimately moved 15 miles away. One of the co-founders of the Reader’s Digest helped save the place. New York’s governor Nelson Rockefeller said Boscobel was “one of the most beautiful homes ever built in America” when it re-opened in 1961.

Washington Irving lived in the real Sunnyside. The Headless Horseman and Rip Van Winkle characters helped make this place possible in Tarrytown.

In 1835, having lived most of his adult life as a guest in other people’s homes, decided to buy this place. Over the years he expanded on the building, so his “little cottage” took on Dutch Colonial Revival, Scottish Gothic, Tudor Revival and Spanish monastic influences. With the exception of five years when he was ambassador to Spain, Irving lived there for a quarter of a century.

This one models Wave Hill House, home to William Lewis Morris. He was a lawyer, his father was the chief justice of the New York Supreme Court. A host of other notable people lived there. Theodore Roosevelt’s family rented Wave Hill; Mark Twain did, too, at the start of the 20th century.

A later resident was palentologist Bashford Dean, who lived there with his wife, Mary Alice Dyckman, herself a descendant of States Dyckman, above. Since 1960, Wave Hill has belonged to the City of New York. It was added to the roster of the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Tens of thousands of people visit it annually. Most of them were at this train show, it seemed like.

The New York Public Library, originating from the basic design of library director John Shaw Billings. The reading room? It tops seven floors of stacks. Overall, it made for the largest marble structure ever attempted in the United States.

The cornerstone was laid in 1902. The columns were in place by 1902. Five years of work on the inside began in 1906. Some 75 miles worth of shelves were installed in 1910, and more than a million books were on hand when the place opened in 1911. President William Taft opened the library and an estimated 50,000 people came through the doors on opening day.

Who wants to drive over a Manhattan Bridge made of sticks?

Nearby, as in real life, is the Brooklyn Bridge’s representation. So we’re walking in the East River, I guess.

And a closer look at the Brooklyn Bridge’s iconic stone towers, here made of bark, and other ingredients.

Some years back I read David McCullough’s The Great Bridge about the building of this incredible bridge. It was the first fixed crossing of the East River and the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time of its opening. Truly a marvel of its day, and still today.

The model is something impressive, too. And there are G-scale trains running along up there, too.

The Central Park Dairy, built in 1870, this was the place where kids could get snacks and milk — which was then hard to find in New York.

Today it is an information center for Central Park, and, of course, a gift shop.

Finally, the Trans World Airlines Flight Center, circa 1962, if there was ever a look of the Jet Age, this was it.

Meant to combine the function of a jet terminal with the aesthetics showing the drama of flight, there aren’t many more mid-20th century buildings than this. Also, it became a hotel, fell into disuse, and then became a terminal for other airlines. So, yeah, the story of the second half of the 20th century, too. If you’ve ever wondered about the architectural style, Wikipedia lists it as futurist, neo-futurist and Googie.

Imagine if they’d used a leaf motif in the actual building.

That wraps up the third installment. (Part one is here. Part two is here.) Three posts and 30 photos down, 10 more photos to go.