Saturday, March 31, 2012

I Can See Clearly Now

I have been wearing glasses since I was in the sixth grade. Back then, mothers would tell their children they would go blind from sitting too close to the television set. (They also told them them would go blind if they did something else, but we're not going to talk about that here.) Actually, I think I sat so close to the television set because I already was nearsighted.

Sometime in the past few years, a minor injury to my right eye started the development of a cataract. (Laurie says it was sand while playing volleyball at the beach; Sammi thinks it was when I got hit playing dodgeball at CTY; me, I don't know.) In any event, it reached a point where it seemed like I was looking through frosted glass and needed to be addressed.

After visits to the opthamologist and opthamolic surgeon, the surgery was scheduled.  The procedure was quick and painless and I now have almost 20/20 vision in my right eye for the first time since I was a wee lad.

It feels quite odd to be sitting at the desk without my glasses on, being able to read titles on books in the bookcases as well as the license plate numbers on the cars in the driveway across the street. And I find myself pushing phantom glasses up my nose. But then, fifty-year-old habits are hard to break.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Weekend in Washington (and Baltimore)

We drove down to Baltimore this weekend to meet up with Sammi for what has become an annual sightseeing weekend.

On Friday afternoon we took the light rail from our hotel near BWI Airport into Baltimore, walked from the Camden Yard station over to the Inner Harbor. The temperature was well into the 70s and it felt like summer had already arrived. we made our way to the Aquarium and, on the way, figured out that the most recent one who had visited it was Sammi, who had been there eight years ago. Laurie and I couldn't place our visits, though they had to have been before 1996 when it was much smaller. There was a lot that wasn't there the last time.
After stopping for Rita's Ices, we headed back to the lightrail station, hoping we would still have time for a visit to Geppi's Entertainment Museum. Despite posted hours of 10 to 6, it was locked up tight when we got there at 5:40.
We then waited for the train, missing one because we were not waiting on the correct platform. As a commuter to New York City for twenty-five years, I guess I've been spoiled by the fact that the Long Island Railroad makes announcements and posts train info on boards around the stations. Not so at the lightrail stations; the display signs told us only that we were at the Camden Yard station and what time it was. So the train came and went before we could get around to it. Further, conductors on other trains that passed through had no idea of the lightrail schedule or even which track we could expect the next train to arrive on.
Despite this, we got back to the hotel, went out for a nice dinner, and relaxed for the evening.

On Saturday morning, our plan was to drive to Washington to visit the newly renovated Ford's Theater Museum, after which we would head around to see the cherry blossoms.
Unlike Friday, the weather was not on our side. It was overcast and only in the 50s, with rain in the forecast for the whole day. In addition, when we got to the Museum at 10:15, all the tickets for the day were gone.
Undaunted, we headed to the National Mall, site of the various Smithsonian museums and the monuments. We were well on our way around the tidal basin, admiring the lush pinks and whites of the cherry blossoms, when it started to drizzle. We were armed with umbrellas (thanks to the supply of them Sammi keeps in her car) and soldiered on, making our way to the Martin Luther King and Franklin D Roosevelt monuments.
We stopped to eat our lunch (under our umbrellas) on a park bench overlooking the Korean War Memorial. It seemed fitting since the statues are a troop of soldiers in ponchos making their way up a muddy hill. We then headed to the Lincoln Memorial because, as Sammi said, she "always likes to see the big Lincoln."
The rain was a bit more steady now, so we decided it was time to head indoors into one of the Smithsonian museums, finally agreeing on Air & Space, which we haven't been to in a number of years. It was, not surprisingly, quite crowded.
After a couple of hours visiting exhibits about the Wright Brothers, famous pilots, telescopes, and views of the Earth, we retrieved the car and headed for dinner.

The Sunday plan had been a visit to the National Arboretum, but it was another drizzly gray day and we did not want to make our drive home in damp clothes and shoes, so we bid Sammi farewell and headed off in our opposite directions home.

Some takeaway facts from the weekend:
* While awaiting approval of their patent applications, the Wright Brothers would not let anyone see their planes or their blueprints, nor would they let people witness the flights. Potential customers for their planes had to take their word that they actually worked.
* The statue of Eleanor Roosevelt in the FDR Memorial is positioned so that she is looking across the Tidal Basin at the White House.
* The original cherry trees were given to the United States by Japan in 1912, making this the 100th anniversary of the gift. Those first trees are commemorated by a plaque.
* The price of ices at the Rita's at the Inner Harbor are more than twice what they are at the Rita's in Licanthum.

Friday, March 16, 2012

More Fun With Numbers

An article this week in the digital US News Weekly talks about the impact of the rise in the price of a gallon of gas from $3.50 to $3.80 and how it "puts a real crimp in the budgets of middle-class and poor households." This prompted me to do a little research and some math.

According to the Department of Transportation, the average American driver travels about 259 miles per week. The average is higher for the 20-34 and 35-54 age groups, 290 and 294 mpw respectively.
Let us presume that someone in these groups has a car that gets really lousy mileage, say 10 miles per gallon. Said driver needs about 29 gallons of gas per week. So a 30c price increase means an increased cost of $8.70 a week.
Drivers with cars that get 15 miles per gallon are looking at a weekly increase of $5.90 and those who get 20 mpg will pay $4.35.

Are the households in this country in such dire straits that less than $9 a week "puts a real crimp" in their budgets? "Sorry, Billy, but we had to pay more for the gas to come to the drive-through and now we can't afford your Happy Meal."


A recent news story -- might have been about people who have ever eaten red meat or drink a lot of alcohol or don't get enough sleep; it doesn't matter -- said that this group of people, whoever they are, have a 17% greater chance of dying.

That's it, "a 17% greater chance of dying."

Guess what! Nobody's chance of dying is any greater or any less than anyone else's. We're all going to get there eventually. Some folks might get there sooner because of what they do, but, overall, our "chance" of dying is 100%.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Stop Playing With Your Food

From yesterday's Daily Beast...

A Nebraska woman got quite a return on her 99-cent investment. Three years ago she noticed one of her McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets resembled President George Washington, and she put it in the freezer. Then, trying to raise money for her church’s summer camp, she unearthed the Washington nugget and posted it on eBay. The winning bid: $8,100. EBay took down the nugget at first, saying it violated its rules regulating expired food, but then the woman got an email saying the company was “willing to make exceptions to help your cause.”

Ignoring the fact that it really doesn't look that much like George Washington, who in their right mind pays $8,100 for it? And after you've bought it, what do you do with it? Put in a display case until it grows a moldy beard and starts looking more like Abraham Lincoln?

This will undoubtedly have people across the country checking their McNuggets for collectibility. You never know, the person who bought McWashington might want a complete set of the McPresidents.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

TV's Long Island

I have lived on Long Island since I was four years old. I have worked in a number of towns here. And there are very few parts of the Island that I've never been to. But among those places I've never been are the parts of Long Island being depicted on TV shows.

For example, on How I Met Your Mother, Marshall and Lily have recently inherited a house in East Meadow. As depicted, the house could easily be in a neighborhood there. Its proximity to a Long Island Railroad station, on the other hand, is a problem. East Meadow sits midway between the two main lines of the LIRR with the nearest station a ten-minute drive away, yet the characters walk in and out as if the station was around the corner. In the most recent episode, Marshall and Lily run out to catch a train that leaves in nine minutes; since I don't recall them being shown having a car, it seems unlikely they would have any chance of getting to the station in time.

Another recent episode had Barney and Ted riding the "drunk train," the last train of the night to Long Island on which all the drunken revellers wend their way home from the city. Well, there really isn't any "last train" because the LIRR doesn't shut down for the night. Service is less frequent in the wee hours, with most trains about 90 minutes apart, but it isn't as if you're doomed to spend the entire night in Penn Station if you miss your train. And "the city that never sleeps" has plenty of places open in which to spend the time waiting for the next one.

As for the train car itself, we'll chalk it up to their using a generic Hollywood set because it didn't look like any LIRR train I've ever ridden on.


Much further east on the Island is the location for Revenge. The show takes place in "the Hamptons," though which one (West, South, East or even Hampton Bay) is not identified. As with How I Met Your Mother, the homes portrayed -- in this case, beachfront estates -- fit the area. But again, they seem to play fast and loose with geography. A recent episode had a character staying in a motel in Riverhead and various people zipped back and forth as if it was a mile away. In fact, depending on which Hampton we're supposed to be in, Riverhead is between twenty and thirty miles away. At least these people all have cars.

This week's episode sets the stage for a murder trial, which presumably will take place in the County Courthouse in Riverhead. The judge, pronouncing that the defendant is a flight risk because of his family's financial fortune, remands him to be held without bail. Okay, that makes some sense.

But then she says that he is to be held in the "maximum security prison" on Riker's Island, which is just ridiculous.  First of all, the complex on Riker's Island is just a jail and not a "maximum security prison." Second, it is in New York City. It seems unlikely that a judge could order a defendant to be sent to a jail some 75 miles away when the Suffolk County Jail is less than a mile from the courthouse.

Unless, of course, the only prison set they have available is the one they use on Alcatraz. In which case the best TV lawyer in the world won't get that ruling reversed.