Saturday, March 31, 2007

Smokeshow Sunday (about Friday)

I worked at the library on Saturday which means I had Friday off.

Friday started off on a bad note. I was puttering around my apartment getting ready to shower when the power went out. I waited a minute, thinking it would come back on. Nothing. Then I waited five minutes. Nothing.

After an hour with no power, I figured it must be something big and I wasn't going to be taking a shower for a while. I packed up my kayak and headed to
Pattaconk Reservoir in Chester.

I stopped for a breakfast sandwich at Dunkin' Donuts and was at the lake before 9 AM. I almost didn't put the kayak in- the wind was blowing and the temperature was around 40 degrees. It felt cold!

I decided to blow up the Marge Barge anyway and I'm glad I did. Aside from a group of gnats that attacked me and my kayak, it was a great trip. Once I started moving, the wind wasn't very bad and the north end of the lake was mirror smooth. It was very relaxing (and much easier than my Connecticut River trip!).

I took a couple of videos (of course!). The one below actually has paddling footage!
Click here for others.

After a couple of hours on the Pattaconk Reservoir, I came home to find power had been restored. I took a shower, then met Kevin and Kathy for lunch at the
Cuckoo's Nest. I always like the food there, but the Shrimp and Scallop Cajun Pasta was outstanding. A good way to celebrate my last Friday of Lent and no meat.

From there, I bought $37.02 worth of car cleaning products. I took my car through a car wash (another 9 bucks) and once I got home I started waxing. I used the 3-step Meguiar's system so, in effect, I waxed my whole car three different times. Between kayaking and the waxing, my back was a mess!

I finished around 7:30 PM and my car looked really good. Unfortunately, it was almost completely dark so I could only take some night pictures of my handiwork. I made a
Photoshow of the pictures, click here for more.

Not a bad Friday off. If it wasn't for the working on Saturday part, I would really enjoy not working on Fridays!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Miniature Wonderlands

Thanks to the internet, I have found the largest model railroad in the world.

It is called Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany. Much of their information is in German, but this is an HO scaled layout with over 1000 trains, 200,000 lights, and 150,000 figures. Click here for an overview of the layout. There are many different scenes, ranging from downtown Hamburg, to the Alps, to an America section.

There are thousands of different scenes, many with a bit of humor included. Click the photo below for many others.

In this country, we have the Panorama of the City of New York located in the Queen's Museum of Art. It opened for the 1964 World's Fair and covers 9,335 square meters and includes 895,000 buildings.

When it was built, it took a team of 100 people three years to complete. When it was finished, it was the largest scale model ever constructed. It was kept up to date until 1970. The next change was initiated in 1992, when 60,000 buildings were updated.

You can read more here and here. Click the photo below for a few more pictures.

On a sad note, one of my favorite sites, Forgotten New York, recently had a story on the poor conditions of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, where the New York Panorama is located. What was once considered to be the "crown jewel" of Queens, has been left to slowly rot away. Click the photo below for the whole story.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Uncle Jay with Peyton Manning

Maybe Uncle Jay isn't as funny as I first thought, but I still like him:

Speaking of funny, Peyton Manning was recently on Saturday Night Live. While I'm still not the biggest fan of the Mannings (Peyton or Eli), this skit is hysterical:

"I think he's really hurt."

Monday, March 26, 2007

Connecticut River Kayaking

After finally finding my missing keys on Saturday, I packed up my kayak and gear and headed for Pratt Cove in Deep River.

My plan was to follow this inlet out to the Connecticut River and then cross to the Old Lyme side. Being that this would be my second ever kayak trip, I figured that I would be paddling at least 100 times farther than I ever had before.

I put the kayak in the water and headed off. The temperature was just below 50 degrees and the water was still very cold. It took longer than I thought it would but I eventually made it to the Connecticut River.

That's when it got a little scarier. I normally have the feeling of being very low in the water and, while a 13 foot kayak looks big in my living room, on the water it feels pretty tiny. There was a breeze blowing from the south (not even a wind, just a breeze) but it made some waves that tossed my kayak around.

I'm sure most boaters would call the water conditions "calm," but being all by myself in the Connecticut River, it seemed a bumpy to me. I never felt like the kayak was even close to tipping, but I could definitely tell the difference when I left the cove. The waves were probably under a foot, but they seemed towering next to my kayak.

Anyway, I paddled up the river to
Deep River Landing, stopped and had a banana (still trying to resolve my hangover issues). I decided to nix the Connecticut River crossing idea. If anything happened to my kayak while I was crossing, I don't know what I would do. There were no other boats out on Saturday.

The trip back was a little tougher- the breeze was in my face, the tide was against me, and my back was really hurting (I have to find a way to adjust my seat for more support). I took a couple of
quick videos to show the "rough" conditions. The wind would push the kayak sideways pretty quickly, so the video is short:

I made it back to Pratt Cove and it was pretty easy paddling back to my car. It really was a nice day but, until the water temperature rises a little, I think I'll stick to places with smooth water.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Hole In One

Why is there a photo of my golf bag at the top of this post?

Did I golf on Saturday? Did I actually hit a hole in one?

Well, I certainly didn't golf. And I didn't exactly hit a hole in one.

The story begins on Friday night after work. I met one of my coworkers in Mystic for a couple of drinks. We started at Azu, which was kind of boring and sterile inside. So we headed "across the bridge" to John's Cafe. It was a much more relaxed atmosphere and we started talking baseball with the bartender and a couple of other guys in there.

Needless to say, at an Irish bar, the beers kept flowing. For some reason, I wasn't drinking my normal light beers. I was mostly drinking Smithwicks Ale, from Ireland but mixed in a couple of pints of other types of beer.

I got home around 11:00 and headed straight for bed because I wanted to go kayaking early on Saturday.

I woke ready to go. Well, not exactly. My body hurt. My head hurt. I didn't eat anything Friday night, so my stomach hurt.

I wasn't going to let this stop me from kayaking, however. I had a book in my car about smooth water kayaking in Connecticut that I wanted to look at before I went. Now that I have a car payment, I always lock my car, so I went to grab my keys out of my pants.

I'm pretty particular about my keys. I always keep them in my left, front pocket. I'm always worried about losing them (I don't think I have spares for anything!) so I rarely let them get too far away.

So, I go to fetch my keys and they aren't there. No problem, I probably left them in the door (it happens sometimes!). Not there, either. OK. I probably left them on the table. Nope, no keys on the table.

A minor panic set it, but the keys had to be in the house, because I used them to get in, right? I did remember throwing a minor fit when I got home Friday night because I had a problem unlocking my door (thanks, Smithwicks!). I threw my water bottles and lunch bag on the ground when I got in so I started thinking I tossed my keys at the same time.

For the first hour of the search, I moved all my furniture, stripped the sheets off my bed, pulled the covers off of my heating vents, checked on all my tables, in the cushions of couches and chairs- all the somewhat obvious places.

Now I'm getting desperate. For the next half hour, I started checking in strange places, outside under my deck, in the toilet, in the 'fridge and freezer, in my trash pails (fun with a hangover), in the pots of my plants, in my dirty clothes, and on and on.

Finally, I did find them- in the last place I looked (if you can believe that!). I keep my golf clubs (pictured above) about 10 feet from my front door just in case I get a last minute golf date. I play a couple of times a year, but I'm always ready! I decided to empty my clubs out and turn over the bag. Sure enough, my keys came tumbling out!

With my little fit the night before, I guess I threw my keys and, somehow, they fell down one of the little holes in the top of my golf bag! It was a one in a million shot and I guess you can call it my first "hole in one."

Monday, March 19, 2007

New York City Pictures

For about a year now I've been saying I want to go to New York to take photos of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Of course, I still haven't gone. The other night I watched a PBS special on the construction of the bridge. I had seen it before but it reminded me that it was truly an engineering marvel when it was built.

I recently came across a bunch of pictures on Flickr by a photographer named
Arnold Pounteau. This album is named NYC at Night and I think they are the best photos I've ever seen of New York. An example is below. Click on it for many more great shots.

Next, is an interesting site called Shorpy: The 100-Year Photo Blog. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, who was a boy who worked in an Alabama coal mine around 1900. There are photographs of everything from home life to work (including some pictures of man employed as a "
rat catcher"). Click the photo below for more.

Finally, I guess I'm expanding my horizons a little. I actually discovered a piano video that I approve of that doesn't involve
Victor Borge. This is called "Rachmaninov Had Big Hands." Enjoy:

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Piano Music

I was forced to take piano lessons when I was a kid.

I mean really forced. I'm sure at some point, when I was six years old or so, I must have asked my parents if I could take piano lessons. At least that's what they always told me. But I hated it from day one.

My mom played piano. Both my brothers enjoy playing. My sister still plays all the time.

Me? My piano career came to a screeching halt when I was about 13 and my dad tore up all my piano books (they aren't cheap!) after I refused to practice one too many times. Then, I had to call my piano teacher to explain to her that I would not be coming in for any more lessons.

I still hate the sound of the piano. Listening to piano music makes me very tense and quickly gives me a headache. I know I'm not normal, but I'm serious. I can appreciate the talent that it takes to play some pieces, but I don't want to have to listen to it.

The only exception is
Victor Borge. I've always loved watching him.

Watch part 2 here. I guess he plays so badly that I like it!

Speaking of comedy and music, check out this video of
Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody performed by the Austrian brass ensemble, Mnozil Brass:

Next, check out this video of a group singing In the Air Tonight on the Paris Metro:

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Robert DeNiro opened Saturday Night Live with this parody of a Homeland Security conference.

I thought it was hysterical. Knowing that
DeNiro is a top-shelf actor (in my amateur opinion), but still has fun with this skit makes it even funnier.

The comments on You-Tube, however, blast DeNiro for this appearance, claiming he is promoting negative stereotypes. One of them states:

it's SNL, I didn't know. Regardless that it's SNL, or if Tom Hanks appeared on
it, it doesn't validate making fun of names that some people might not
comprehend. It's just not right making fun of any name, taking the long arabic
names and giving them obscene characteristics. This video isn't making fun of
the government, but the actual arabic names. Actors are actors, and we like them
for their performances, not who they are in reality.

Am I wrong to find this humorous?

I think the more serious problem is the targeting our government is doing on Americans and the
abuses allowed by the Patriot Act. We'll save that discussion for another day, though.

As Benjamin Franklin
may have said, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

This little animated short sums up a few of the problems with allowing the government access to our private information.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"Mr. President, you're leading us off a cliff. Stop!"

At least Jon Stewart can make me laugh at the insanity of this administration:

Sunday, March 11, 2007

This Week's Uncle Jay

Uncle Jay is taking a week off from the news but talks about our government this time:

I've also had this video saved of the opening to the
Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson but I haven't found any topic to add it to, so I'll just stick it here.

He begins most shows with an opening monologue where he picks a topic from the news and talks about it for 10 or 15 minutes.

In this video, he turns a little serious and tries to expose the sadness that many of the new outlets overlook when discussing the lives of many of our pop icons. Last week,
he announced he will no longer be doing any jokes about Britney Spears, saying, "I don't want to talk about sick people like that."

Iced Out

The good news this weekend was the switch to daylight-savings time.

It is really depressing when you get home from work in the dark and have to turn on all of your lights as you walk in the door. When I heard they were going to extend daylight-savings time by 4 weeks this year (3 weeks earlier in the spring, one week later in the fall), I was ecstatic.

Of course, as some of you know, I own many clocks and normally it takes me awhile before I get around to updating all of them. I was so happy this year, however, that I already changed them all!

And I don't want to hear anyone complaining, "But we are losing an hour of sleep." C'mon, it's a tiny price to pay for the extra daylight. Be happy you don't live in northwestern Indiana: they not only moved their clock one hour ahead for daylight-savings, but they also switched from the Central Time Zone to the Eastern Time Zone. In effect, they "lost" two hours Sunday morning.

Indiana is one of the more confusing states when it comes to keeping the correct time. You can read more
here and here.

The bad news this weekend is that I wasn't able to launch my kayak for her maiden voyage as I had planned.

All the fresh water lakes are still frozen around here. I thought by Sunday, I might be able sneak in for a quick paddle, but I couldn't do it.

Some of my co-workers were worried about my maiden voyage.

Really, what could go wrong? The water temperature is near freezing, I've never kayaked before, and my swimming skills would make a 5 year-old laugh!

I did read up on the effects of being immersed in cold water. It turns out that in 40 degree water, a healthy individual can remain conscious for about a hour. The real problem with that hour survival time is that it assumes no exertion, just being balled up to conserve heat. Any movement (such as trying to climb back into a kayak or swimming to shore) can reduce your survival time to a matter of minutes. Cold water removes body heat about 25 times faster than cold air. Also, your hands, being one of the extremities that your body reduces heat to first, become numb almost immediately, making it impossible to swim at all.

Well, maybe by next weekend the water will be a little warmer, right?

On the subject of water sports, check out this video. It's called "Slip and Die" for obvious reasons.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

World's Worst. . .

. . . weatherman:

. . . sportscaster ("boom goes the dynamite"):

. . . goalkeepers:

. . . singing in a stadium:

. . . bagpiper: