Category Archives: A Day In The Life…

Hooded Merganser

Jen and I are up to our ears in bird feeders. The current collection includes:

Shucked Sunflower Seeds
Peanuts
Thistle
Suet
and a special Bluebird mix

Our five feeders reside just outside our breakfast nook window and we’ve taken great joy in our daily feathered visitors. For the most part, these visitors are recycled. We see the same seasonal birds over and over.

This past weekend, however, our eyes were diverted to an unexpected source: ducks.

I have never been interested in ducks. I think it’s because of their size. They don’t have the endearing smallness of a Pheobe and they don’t have the impressive grandeur of a heron or a hawk. Ducks are pretty middle of the road. This weekend that lackluster appeal took a dramatic turn.

Our backyard is framed by a large water hazard. It falls somewhere between the characterization of pond and marsh. On Saturday a flash of white coasting across the water caught my eye… it was a hooded merganser.

The hooded merganser has a giant bright white hooded head. It’s so odd-looking that it ignited in me an immediate deep interest in ducks. I pulled out my telescope, found my camera mount, and desperately tried to take pictures – but was grossly ineffective. Every evening since, I’ve been looking out trying to spot the return of the hooded merganser with no avail.

Even if it doesn’t return, I’m grateful that the hooded merganser has inspired me to delve into the ducks chapter of my Peterson’s Field Guide.

Dataless Day 25

On one of my carpool trips from work a few weeks back, Sander and I had a great idea. It’s an event that would occur once every few months – perhaps quarterly. The event’s title:

Interesting Evenings.

The idea came about we discussed Sander’s experiences with his debate team in high school. Then it dawned on me: we should have a debate! We could invite people over and have a formal debate with judging and the whole thing! Sander cleverly recommended that in order for it to succeed it would be best to mix seriousness and comedy. For example, we could have one debate on the death penalty and another on Miracle Whip vs. Cains.

Other ideas for interesting evenings? Perhaps a craft evening, an auction, or a series of lectures. Anyone else have a good recommendation?

Aside: Three days left of datelessness. Stay tuned for the March recaps.

Calligraphy

One of the products of no-technology February was a new interest in calligraphy. I took a book out from the library and started going through the exercises. It’s unexpectedly challenging. There are a lot of very subtle recommendations to go from terrible calligraphy to decent calligraphy. It’s much more than pen angle; it’s balance of white space, line width, crisp intersections and perfect consistency. To start, I made pencil guidelines and then struggled through the alphabet with a pen. Just trying to learn the proportions before even considering line width.

alphabet

Suddenly I made a beautifully proportioned g. The bowl and loop feel balanced. The width and height feel right. It’s a masterpiece.

I proudly showed Jen

“Jen! Look at this g!”
“oh, good for you!” she said, her voice tinged with the slightest thread of pitying endearment. She followed sharply with “but what’s wrong with your a?”

It’s occasionally hilarious to be struggling to write lowercase at 33 years old.

Welcome back to the 21st Century!

Ahhh, the joys of lazy internet usage! We have completed our 28 days without technology.

How’d it go? Pretty good for the most part. Looking back, both Jen and I consider this experiment a positive one. We got a fair amount accomplished; Between the two of us we read 15 books (Jen: 13, me:2), went on a ton of adventures (most of which were previewed in automatic posts), cooked loads (over 250 raviolis!), played games, and had a handful of friendly get togethers.

The biggest surprise? I expected way more time to come out of not using technology. The biggest sudden increase in time was my work lunch. For not one day in February did I take a break during lunch. Without the internet, there really was no reason to stop working. The only semi-breaks were business lunches. The biggest area where I expected gains was at home, and here Jen saw a bigger gap open up from no technology than I did (Hence her triumph over 13 books). In general, the evenings remained much the same.

The hardest part? My week long trip in Houston. It was tough to use up dead time without internet. I did bring my travel guitar, so I got a little practice time in. And I admit, I cheated once to rewatch the patriots victory. Jen cheated once to watch a Modern family when the house was a bit too quiet in my absense.

The best part? Jen and I remembered how to play spit, and we had more than a few card games. Right at the end we came up with a fun vocabulary game, going back and forth trying to define challenging words – very fun.

What will I carry over? A few things.

1. I moved my phone from my nightstand to the bureau for nighttime charging. This was a good move.
2. I like game nights. Hopefully Jen and I will do more of these.
3. The vocabulary game was awesome. This will be repeated
4. In general, I’m going to try and keep going with resisting internet except for productive ventures. We’ll see how well this goes. Keep your fingers crossed.

More recaps to come, but suffice to say this was a unique month.

The Age of Age

Scientists are furiously working to try and figure out how to hack aging. Yesterday on the ride home from work I was chatting with Sander and we mused about what might happen if Scientists succeeded. Let’s presume it was pretty instant success. For example, they discover that with a small amount of gene therapy life could easily be extended to 250years with scalable health.

Things would get weird. Fast.

Class wars for treatment prioritization on the short term
Political craziness as long-term problems suddenly effect everybody
Workforce migration as people re-evaluate their jobs and the retired re-apply
Overpopulation concerns and strange family dynamics, great^8 grandparents?
A widening of the wealth gap as the market leaders lead longer
Punishment re-evaluation
Driving adjustments
Le Creuset’s lifetime warranty speculation

It’s fun thinking of how things might get weird.

Laugh Tracks

This weekend I got into a heated discussion with a friend about Laugh Tracks. I hate them. For me, they ruin a viewing experience. Take the acclaimed ‘Big Bang Theory’. Even though technically it’s not a track since they have a live studio audience, the laughter feels like an emotional crutch. It’s as if the jokes aren’t good enough on their own, so they cue everyone: “hey! this is where you’re suppose to laugh!”

The result is awkward pauses in flow of the script as the group waits for the laughter to subside. Through the magic of technology others have skillfully edited out laugh tracks in such shows as the Big Bang Theory. The result is awkward.

“But Wait!” you interject, “That’s a tendentious example, it’s not always awkward!”

Actually you’re right. This article does a good job at making the argument that laugh tracks aren’t the problem: The attempt at saving a failed joke is the problem. When laugh tracks or laugh cues are used when there isn’t actually anything funny… perhaps that is where it fails. In fact, I get that same distaste from stand-up comedy when I have a disagreement with the crowd’s appreciation for a joke. It makes me pause and wonder why the crowd guffaws. Ultimately, I become detached from the show. Maybe it’s the show’s resulting lack of sincerity from mistimed laughter that causes my distaste.

To me a laugh track seems as bizarre of an idea as a sob track for a sad film or a fear track (the crowd gasps!) for a horror film. These ideas seem so ridiculous; but conceptually they don’t differ at all from the idea of a laugh track.

But perhaps if laugh tracks or sob tracks were used in perfect harmony with the viewer’s genuinely experienced emotion, they would enhance the viewing experience. Perhaps people who love shows with laugh tracks just have a more welcoming sense of humor.

Maybe I’m just a dud.

A Surplus of Wonderful

There seem to be way too many seven wonders of the world.

From a quick internet search:
Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (AW)
Seven Natural Wonders of the World (NW)
Seven Wonders of the Underwater World (UW)
Seven Wonders of the Industrial World (IW)
New Seven Wonders of the World (N7)
USA New Seven Wonders of the World (UN7)
The New Seven Natural Wonders of the World (NN7)
Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages (MA – weirdly there are more than seven here)

Let’s list out all the wonders from the lists above and see if we can filter out the best of the best.

The list!

Great Pyramid of Giza (AW & N7)
Hanging Gardens of Babylon (AW)
Temple of Artemis (AW)
Statue of Zeus at Olympia (AW)
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (AW)
Colossus of Rhodes (AW)
Lighthouse of Alexandria (AW)
SS Great Eastern (IW)
Bell Rock Lighthouse (IW)
London Sewerage System (IW)
Brooklyn Bridge (IW)
First Transcontinental Railroad (IW)
Panama Canal (IW & MW)
Hoover Dam (IW)
Palau (UW)
Beliz Barrier Reef (UW)
Great Barrier Reef (UW & NW)
Deep-Sea Vents (UW)
Galapagos Islands (UW)
Lake Vaikal (UW)
Northern REd Sea (UW)
Iguazu Falls (NN7)
Jeju Island (NN7)
Komodo Island (NN7)
Puerto Princesa Underground River (NN7)
Table Mountain (NN7)
Halong Bay (NN7)
Amazon Rainforest (NN7)
Grand Canyon (NW & UN7)
Harbor of Rio de Janeiro (NW)
Mount Everest (NW)
Aurora (NW)
Paricutin volcano (NW)
Victoria Falls (NW)
Potala Palace (UN7)
Old City of Jerusalem (UN7)
Polar Ice caps (UN7)
Papahanaumokaukea (UN7)
The Internet (UN7)
Mayan Ruins (UN7)
Great Migration of Serengeti (UN7)
Channel Tunnel (MW)
CN Tower (MW)
Empire State Building (MW)
Golden Gate Bridge (MW)
Itaipu Dam (MW)
Delta Works (MW)
Great Wall of China (N7 & MA)
Petra (N7)
Christ the Redeemer (N7)
Machu Picchu (N7)
Chichen Itza (N7)
Colosseum (N7)
Taj Mahal (N7 & MA)
Stonehenge (MA)
Colosseum (MA)
Catacombs (MA)
Porcelain Tower of Nanjin (MA)
Hagia Sophia (MA)
Leaning Tower of Pisa (MA)
Cairo Citadel (MA)
Ely Cathedral (MA)
Cluny Abbey (MA)

Some of the wonders above appear on multiple lists. Let’s consider this a vote of confidence for these wonders. I wish my filter had naturally worked out to a list of seven, but alas… only six. So I hereby present to you…

MIKE D’s SIX WONDERS OF THE WONDERS

Great Pyramid of Giza
Panama Canal
Great Barrier Reef
Grand Canyon
Great Wall of China
Taj Majal

I love that five of the six items on this list have adjectives of grandeur (taj means ‘crown’)! How wonderful!

A Question of Social Acceptability

In early Novemeber I was at a work event and someone casually asked how old I was. I promptly replied “Thirty Three.” When the person left moments later I was struck with confusion. “Wait a minute, I’m not 33,” my brain befuddled, “I’m 32.” It was bizarre.

Reminder: This was in November.

Yesterday, I was thinking about age and I suddenly realized that I AM 33. For a solid month I had wrongly believed I was a year younger than I am.

I submit to you that perhaps the impoliteness of asking someone his or her age is not at all a social faux pas because of age stereotype or capability stereotype, but instead it puts someone on the spot and challenges them to do calendar math (the most annoying type of math).