Friday, September 30, 2016

Techie Humor

Although I haven't done it for years, for many years, beginning in high school, I did theatrical lighting work, until I just didn't have the time to devote to hanging Lekos on the box-booms of an auditorium for amateur theater groups. Still, I've been a 'lighting guy', and I'm comfortable with much of the jargon... though with LED's and computerization, it's a different world out there now.

Tonight, I was shooting the breeze with a couple of techies who are setting up for one of our October fundraisers, and the subject of the friendly rivalry between lighting guys and sound guys came up. The technical director, who's mainly a sound guy, related a bit about a lighting designer giving him a ribbing about the importance of light vs sound:

"And on the first day, God said, 'let there be light', and there was light."

"First, he had to be heard."

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Can't Get There from Here

The big local story of the day has been the horrific commuter train crash in Hoboken which killed a young mother and injured scores of people. Predictably, the lack of a passive train control system, which might have prevented the crash, has been held up by regulation-averse assholes citing the cost of upgrades to the system.

Here in the real world, besides the death of a thirty-something year-old woman and the injuring of over one hundred others, this incident has thrown a monkey wrench into the commutes of thousands of residents of the New York Metro Area. At times like these even Jerseyites are comrades, even though they have terrible taste in governors.

I'm fortunate in having multiple transit options for getting where I want to be, should I be carless at any particular time. I live within walking distance of a couple of stations on the Metro-North Harlem Line, and the ends of the 2 Train and the 4 Train should I have to get into New York City for any reason. To get to work, I can take a combination of a bus and a Metro-North Hudson Line train, or a combination of two local Bee-Line Buses. If I didn't work nights, one of the local bike trails would be a pretty good option as well. I'm lucky to have redundancy of transportation. It has been many years since I've had to cross a major body of water to get to work, and I can't imagine how bad the commute from Jersey to New York and vice-versa must have been today.

I am a firm believer in infrastructure improvement, especially when it comes to safety concerns. The life lost, the lives adversely affected, and the millions of dollars in lost productivity due to transit problems point out the idiocy of the argument that installing additional safety features on our trains is 'too expensive'.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Today, I've basically been out of the loop. This afternoon, I had to attend the annual eight-hour refresher course that is a prerequisite for the license I need for work. There were only six students in the class, so the instructor was able to get us all to eschew the breaks so we could just call an hour-long 'break' at the end of the class and call it a day. Whew... that was a relief. I had thought that I had a night off, but on a hunch I checked the schedule and realized that one of my subordinates had a schedule conflict and needed time off- my subordinate who worked the early shift covered the first half-hour of my shift, and here I am, trying to get enough caffeine into my gullet. Dinner, I must sheepishly admit, was a couple of handfuls of Cheez-Its. Thankfully, I don't have to start tomorrow night until 9PM... I think I need to force myself to eat a whole mess of vegetables just to start feeling like a human again. I fear that, with October being such a slog, I'll devolve into a trashivore.

In the meantime, I need to catch up with the news, I've been cloistered for most of the day. There's also the matter of some first aid supplies that I had requested ahead of our busy season- the summer stock of first aid supplies has seen quite a bit of use, and we will be busier in the coming month than we've been all summer, so I badgered a bunch of managers until they told me what needed to be replenished. I figure I can put on the all-news radio station while I separate generic-brand bandage strips, adhesive tape, and 'sting relief' swabs into separate packages to send to other sites. We don't have any epi-pens, those are too damn expensive to just hand out to visitors these days.

UPDATE: In the interest of candor, I have to note that I have to take an eight-hour refresher course every calendar year- you can bet your sweet bippie that next year, I will take the course in late March or early April, before the tourist season. Just because I've long taken the course in the Fall doesn't mean I have to keep up the habit.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Debate Night

So... it's the night of the first Clinton/Trump debate. Ugh, I get the feeling that it will be a slog and a slugfest. As a fighter, my opinion is that Clinton's first order of business is to get Trump off of his balance, which is never stable to begin with. If I had been on Hillary's debate prep team, I would have shown her the cool, unflappable Miss May Whitley in all of her glory:

Rattle Trump's cage, flat out state that he's out of his league, that he's none-too-bright. Pin the 'trust fund kid' moniker on him and drop a joke about him being unable to make money on casino gambling on a virtual monopoly in an Atlanta-to-Portsmouth sprawl that housed millions and millions of people at the time. Put succinctly, paint him as a failure, boosted by daddy's money and a congeries of iridescent globes scams that targeted the naive and desperate. In a fight, one should aim for one's opponent's vulnerable spot, and Trump's is the facade that he has maintained, that of a successful businessman.

I'm going to be finishing work at 9PM, and will listen to the first minutes of debate in the car, then go over to a friend's house for pizza and beer. Luckily, it's not a drinking game, don't need to get sloppy.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Long Slog

It's the time of year when the organization I work for holds its major Fall fundraisers, which means that it's 'all hands on deck' time at work. The long hours have already begun- I worked from Friday 5PM to Saturday 4AM, then had a bit of a respite, only working Saturday 5PM to Sunday 1AM. I am currently working a 6PM to 6AM shift, and there is a small army of technicians working their butts off- they are a really nice group of men and women, some of whom I have known for years. They should wrap up around 3AM, then I have to do all the i-dotting and t-crossing after they leave. I actually have a day off on Wednesday, but I will be spending that at an annual certification class... fun fun fun. For the record, one of my co-workers put in a whopping one-hundred and two hours in last pay period. He took the day off today so he could attend a vintage car show- it's the calm before the storm, because he'll have few days off in October.

Myself? I have two days off scheduled for the month- both Secret Science Club event nights... gotta support my people, you know. It's not as bad as it seems, though, about one-third of the nights will be four-hour shifts, which are pretty mellow. I usually refer to October as 'pulling a Captain Nemo', because I won't surface for a month, but this coming October, I'll call it 'pulling an Alvin'. At any rate, I can't complain, I like my job, I like my co-workers, and it's a not-too-common opportunity to pick up a bunch of overtime.

I'll try to keep to a regular posting schedule, but I'll be falling back on short posts, video posts, and pre-scheduled posts. I'll surface one of these days.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Polk Salad Bastard

Last month, inspired by a post about pokeweed by Thunder, I posted about pokeweed and the country-rock standard Polk Salad Annie. We actually have quite a bit of pokeweed growing on-site here, far north of the Mason-Dixon line:

I was actually lucky enough to encounter a couple of small poke plants, small enough to be solidly in the 'pick me' category:

Erring on the side of caution, I boiled the pokeweed that I had harvested in three changes of water, then sauteed it in some olive oil with some garlic. The greens have a nice flavor, similar to that of spinach... and I consumed them without any ill effects, though they do tend to 'clean you out' very well if you know what I mean, and I think that you do. I can readily see a small amount of pokeweed becoming part of the weekly foraging take, in season. We have a secondary growth of stinging nettles coming up, and the pokeweed would be a good accompaniment for the nettles and lamb's quarters in my typical green slurry.

So, now that I'm a poke-eater, I guess that I could qualify for a song of my own:

Polk Salad Bastard, the dude likes getting plastered.
Everybody thought it was a joke, that this Northern boy is chowing down on poke.
A big, bald, Schick razor shaving bastard.

I found a really great cover version of Polk Salad Annie by Sammarinese singer Little Tony (who's a better Ciacci than Scott Baio ever could be). I particularly like this version because he was singing the song phonetically and made some charming errors due to his unfamiliarity with such regionalisms as 'truck patch'. I find this version a lot of fun, but not quite as much fun as Tony Joe White's duet with Johnny Cash:

I think Italians would 'get' the whole polk salad thing- Italian cuisine specializes in making bitter things delicious, and pokeweed seems like it belongs alongside such greens as escarole, arugula, and radicchio. I think poke would go well with beans, which like pokeweed can be poisonous if prepared incorrectly. Like poke, they can also clean you out really well.

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Brilliant Coda to this Month's Lecture

What could be a better follow-up to an oceanography/marine biology lecture than the announcement that President Obama has created the first Marine National Monument in the Atlantic Ocean? The fact that this oceanic preserve contains some of the very seamounts and marine canyons described in Tuesday's lecture is just the icing on the cake.

Back when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, I was quoted in an interview as saying, "I'm happy that we have a nerd in the White House once again." In his speech acknowledging the creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, hot on the heels of the expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, President Obama shows himself to be a steward as well as a nerd. He cherishes the oceans, and he is doing what he can to protect important regions of them:

Once, not too long ago, the oceans must have seemed indestructible, but with overfishing, ocean acidification, and appalling pollution, it is evident that these once invulnerable-seeming environments are woefully fragile. The creation of protected areas is a small, but significant, step in better stewardship of the oceans, and the president deserves kudos for making it happen.

I'm going to miss him being in the White House, but I have no doubt that he will go on to a stellar career as a former President.