Thursday, August 31, 2006

8/16/2006 - Hooray for Harry Bingham

It seems that Harry Bingham is getting a stamp.  Who?  I asked much the same question.  Pater provides some answers:

The son of archaeologist of Indiana quality, Harry entered the US diplomatic service and found himself in France in 1939.  Ambivalent about the upcoming war and uneasy to appear to be taking sides, President Roosevelt's Administration ordered its representatives in France not to grant visas to Jews.

Bingham refused to comply.

During his tenure of rebellion, he granted visas to such notables as Marc Chagall, Max Ernst and the family of Thomas Mann.  He also sheltered Jews and forged a few identities for those in need.  Washington, eventually losing patience, sent him to Argentina, where he took it upon himself to track the movement of Nazi war criminals.

He died penniless and his contribution to humanity might have been forgotten but for his son, who found some relevant letters among his belongings after he died.  He has since been honored by the UN, the State of Israel and finally, the U.S.

I have an uncle who smuggled contraband to the (Jewish) freedom fighters during Israel's war of independence.  I'm proud of what he did and I'm proud to be part of movement to honor Bingham's memory.  They seem a kindred pair in my eyes and I hope their memories feel honored by each other.

14,000 memorial steps today.  Cheers,

8/15/2006 - Logistics of the Jimmy Fund Walk

I must confess that I can be quite fond of working through the logistics of projects.  As I get ready for my 26.2 mile walk, I am enjoying digging into the most minute of the minutiae: To what podcasts will I listen?  What will I drink?  Shall I buy a new pair of socks?  What kind of mapquest information shall I take with me?

In addition to deciding what to listen to as I walk (at least for the first 13 miles, I will be joined by Mr. Peacock and his sister-in-law at the halfway mark) I have to decide how.  I usually listen to my podcasts on my phone, but if I do that, I will drain the battery, and I want to feel like I could make a quick call from the road if I had to.  Additionally, I know that I can't wear my nice earphones for 3.5 hours.  In fact, my ears get sore wearing them for even 60 minutes.  They have nice sound-canceling qualities, which they achieve by fitting very tightly around my ears.  My plan is to switch back and forth between them and much worse earplugs.  I might have to give up and just walk in silence…

Special shout outs to all of you who have donated so far:

  • Walkin' Boots
  • Dr. Love
  • The Yooks
  • Actu-Pella
  • T-Bone
  • The Gnome and of course
  • Mom and Dad!

12,000 grateful steps today.  Cheers,

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

8/13-14/2006 - Edgerton, WI

And thus I sidle my way into Edgerton, WI. After the (virtual) wasteland that was Shopiere, it is a relief to be back in a city that values having a presence on line (as befits a city of 5,000+).

A quick look at its website shows that, had I managed to get here by June 14th (closer to when I actually did pass through it, by my records) I would have been treated to "Straight Up Bluegrass." Other concerts in the summer included The Banjo Barons, Tonya Rocker and Gear.

Additionally, Edgerton is the birthplace of Sterling North. Who? Wikipedia answers: a poet and author whom I haven't heard of, but whose works have been turned into a 52-episode Anime series in Japan. His most famous work seems to have been called "Rascal." Somehow, looking quickly at his historical society, I got the notion that he was somehow associated with the Little Rascals, but the more I dig into the material, the less likely that seems.

As long as I'm in Edgerton, I'll probably hike along the Rock River, possibly drift idly in a canoe. About this time I might notice that I am at an elevation of over 800 feet. As I approach Mount Rushmore, I only expect that number to go up!

34,000 wascally thteps over these two days. Cheers,

8/12/2006 - Here comes the Big One

Well, I've decided to put my best foot forward about 29,000 times (and my worst foot forward almost that much). On Sunday, September 17th, I will be walking the route of the Boston Marathon, taking part in a fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund, which supports the Dana-Farber Center here in Boston.

I'm walking first and foremost for all of the kids I have met on 7-West in Children's hospital, especially the daughter of a friend of mine, who has recently battled her way to remission. I'm also walking for the Dana-Farber doctors who have helped my kid (who thank God never had cancer).

I'm also walking because, hey, I like walking.

Can I do it? I don't know. My longest walk in the past year was about 11-12 miles, which is a lot less than 26.2. In my defense, I will say that I stopped because I ran out of time, not because I ran out of juice. Later that day I went on a pair of 3-4 mile walks, both aimed at keeping the baby asleep. So in one day, I probably racked up close 18 miles in real walks plus another 1-2 walking about the apartment. Of course, I was in mid-season form then and I've been a little off my game the last few weeks. Here's hoping I can get back there.

In the meantime, the Wife is being very supportive. She'd rather I stuck with the 13 mile walk, but is willing to let me make my own mistakes here. She's also been excellent about helping me find (not insignificant) time to train. Thanks Wife, you're fantastic!

If you'd like, you can sponsor me as a walker at the Jimmy Fund Website. If you are one of the countless 2 or 3 individuals that reads this blog who doesn't know my real name, don't look for JG Fellow, he ain't walking. Feel free to make a donation directly to the Jimmy Fund "in honor of JG Fellow." It won't go contribute to my fundraising goals, but I'd be tickled regardless.

14,000 practicing steps today. Cheers,

Sunday, August 27, 2006

8/11/2006 - The will of the people

Mary's violet eyes make John stay up nights.

What does he do in the throes of his insomnia? We'll never know, because Pluto has been dropped from the ranks of the planets. The New York Times calls this "coming to [our] senses" but I lament the decision, and not just for the sake of classical music enthusiasts (actually, PB points out that such enthusiasts are unaffected).

From the NYT's perspective, Pluto was an accident, an outcast among the planets that should never have slipped in. The horror that lay behind Pluto was the dozens of equally valid mongrel planets, waiting to tear down the Berlin Wall lying roughly six billion kilometers from the sun (not to mention those rogue agents hiding between Mars and Jupiter).

From my perspective, we had a chance to live through the expansion of our little corner of the universe. A chance to better engage the hearts and minds of children around the world to be interested in not 8 but 12, dare I say 51 balls of rock, gas or ice revolving our beautiful Yellow Dwarf (see Dwarves can be beautiful!).

Well, I shall endeavor to keep Pluto alive in my own family, and maybe even spread the legends of Ceres, Charon and Xena! No, sir, I will not yield!

9,000 Plutonic steps today. Cheers,

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

8/9-10/2006 - Shopiere, WI

And thus I find myself in Shopiere, Wisconsin. Being a mere 11 (oops - 16, how time flies) days behind in my posting at this point I can (more or less) take off my 7 league boots and return to my ambling pace. I think I'll still let myself get two days for posting cities, as I am so far behind (on my spreadsheet, I've hit South Dakota!).

I couldn't find a website for the city, so I tried some alternatives. Here's a picture of a bridge in Shopiere. Alas, nothing from Wikipedia. I'm guessing that Shopiere has under 4,000 residents and is not the birthplace of any earth-shattering political movements.

26,000 soft-spoken steps over these 2 days. Cheers,

8/8/2006 - R.I.P., Boston Red Sox

I've been relatively good about sports entries recently, so I hope my faithful readers will forgive this brief interruption. I have in mind to make to write it with a broader interest in mind, but I am assured that my faithful readers will let me know whether I have succeeded...

As the Sox swirl into their final 40 games of the season, it seems appropriate to ask "what went wrong?" Until the all-start break, the Sox looked like the legitimate leaders in AL East and after they looked terrible. Part of what happened is that the Yankees retooled, got a few injured players back and surged. But I think that the demise can be blamed on 3 key factors, not all of which are clearly fixable.

Starting pitching

I think that, when historians look back on this year, they will eventually rate 4 long-term injuries to starting pitchers among the most important causes. David Wells and Mark Clement were the first down. Lenny DiNardo (or LeoNardo, as I like to think of him) followed soon after and Tim Wakefield succumbed in the middle of the season. None of these guys was the ace of the staff, or even number 2. And the rainstorm of injuries (and failed replacements) eventually led to the introduction of promising rookie -- John Lester). But in retrospect they were devestating. Wells returned to the mound as the season was about to be over and demonstrated how integral he would have been in keeping the Sox in the hunt.

How do you avoid pitching injuries? Well two of these guys were over 40 and I'm sure their cumulative injuries played a big role in how fast they could return. I am hoping that the Sox surging youth movement will play some role in mitigating the impact from injuries.

Tired/Inexperienced Relief Staff

I want to be clear here, I give Boston's coach, Terry Francona, full marks for playing the hand he was dealt creatively. He bulked up the bullpen and tried out tons of theories, none of which panned out. In the end, the injuries to the starting pitchers (and the disappointing season of Josh Beckett, for whom we are still waiting) meant that these guys had to pick up lots of innings. More than a typical relief staff. The Sox added a few pitchers to improve the staff, but middle relief is hit or miss -- these are often guys who either didn't make it as a starter or didn't make it as a closer.

The most frequent other option is youngsters on the way up, and Boston stocked their bullpen with plenty of those: Papelbon, Delcarmen, Hansen, Lopez, Snyder, Breslow and El Presidente, Van Buren. None of them (except Papelbon and maybe Breslowe) truly impressed, but all of them showed grit and promise. The problem with youth is that it is, at best, inconsistent.

How do you fix that? Experience. I solemnly hope that the Sox will hold onto many of these guys for next year. You wouldn't want the average age of your bullpen to be under 25, but you have to think that these guys have potential.

Getting runners home

This wasn't as much of a problem in the first half of the season, but in the second half, it seemed like bases loaded meant end of inning. Maybe it was the injuries to Varitek and Nixon (hey, how many ex-Presidents does this team have? Another post for another day). Maybe it was that the large bullpen meant small bench and tired staff. Either way, the hits stopped coming and at the most opportune times. In the last month, the team hit close to .290, but more like .210 with runners in scoring position.

If the starting pitching gets more innings next year, we can keep a smaller bullpen, more benchplayers and give these guys more days off.


"Your theory may be crazy, but it's not crazy enough to be true." -Neils Bohr

9,000 leaden steps today. Thbbbbbt.

Monday, August 21, 2006

8/7/2006 - Undecided in Wisconsin

The Mystery Pollster has an excellent recent piece on undecided voters.  Some recent data contradicts one of the cardinal rules of polling:  Undecided voters overwhelmingly break for the challenger.

I heard about this notion for the first time during the Bush-Gore election in 2000.  I was cudgeled with it in 2004, when every news reports seemed to begin with a reminder:

    "October 23rd, 2004:  As research has demonstrated, time and time again, undecided voters break overwhelmingly for the challenger.  In other news, the Red Sox swept the Cardinals to win their first World Series in 86 years…"

Even as I originally listened to the networks claim how undecideds would break, I was dimly aware that this was an example of biased reporting -- most of these networks supported the challenger and they surely influenced decisions.  The morality of this can be debated elsewhere.

Well, MP just revealed that this conventional wisdom was based on data as recent as 1982.  An update of the analysis reveals something noteworthy: that percentage has been trending downwards.  In 2002 and 2004, the split was closer to 50/50 (with the challenger still having a slight edge).  What drove the change?  Well that's far from clear and pollsters will be happy to grab any number of snowflakes out of the thin air (from post 9/11 theories to improved sampling methods).  But my question is this?

If the "fact" that undecideds break for the challengers is now entrenched in the fourth estate, I imagine that we will hear much of this in the upcoming mid-term elections.  If the media still relies on professional polling organizations to provide the bulk of the analysis, you may start hearing a new tune in the near future.

12,100 late-breaking steps today.  Cheers,

Sunday, August 20, 2006

8/4-6/2006 - Machesney Park, IL

Time for my final stop in the great state of Illinois: Machesney Park. Machesney, founded in 1830 (but incorporated some 150 years later) is in the Township of Harlem. If that sounds like a strange resonance to Manhattan, it's not accidental -- both areas were settled by the Dutch.

Much of Machesney Park's history revolves around its airport, which has served military, commercial and historic purposes. As of now, the city stands at a little over 20,000 people.

What is there to do in Machesney Park? Plenty! I'll mention my favorite two. My eldest and his visiting cousin, Sampson, would enjoy the 24,000 square feet of wooden interactive playground at "Project Playworks." But I would probably be found tramping along the Willowcreek Path on the other side of town.

Before I sign off, it feels weird to be leaving Illinois without one post about the man of whom I can't but think with every step I take through the state -- Abraham Lincoln. I cannot pretend that he is my favorite President, that honor is bestowed on George Washington. But he's certainly up there.

The more I learn about him, the more interesting he becomes. Hardly the monotonic slave-freer he is often made out to be, he came to office using the language of status quo. He hardly resembled the man that would go to say "house divided against itself" and "understood just as well, and even better than we do now."

He was a man of shrewd politics and amazing grit. He knew well the risk to his life, he survived plots before that of Booth's.

But in the end, what Lincoln means to me is that we still have a union. In Europe, it seems, the trend is to head in the other direction. I am proud of the land which I now traverse (virtually and otherwise) and proud of the man that once led it.

58,100 united steps over these 3 days. Cheers,

Friday, August 18, 2006

8/2-3/2006 - Steve Mirsky, for the not-so scientific Americans

It's been a while since I logged a podcast review.  I have, of late, been listing away from fiction and sports and into education (history and science).  My latest such podcast is that of Scientific American.  Steve Mirsky, long-time contributor to the magazine, has a podcast.  I like science, so I tuned it, but was surprised about what I got.

I guess I was expecting something along the lines of Science Friday (to which I also listen).  Serious discussions about science.  Science Friday has a very Liberal bent, which I didn't expect to see, and maybe SciAm would take on a range of topics instead of digging into 1 or 2.

Well, I got the range right.  Actually, SciAm does more advocacy than does SciFri.  From stem-cell research to flu-funding, Mirsky and his interviewees have no compunction against recommending policy and criticizing the administration.  In general, I find myself agreeing with their positions, so this doesn't trouble me much, but I was surprised.

The other thing that surprised me is how goofy it is.  The first episode brought me a version of CSI - as will never appear on TV.

Detective:      "Have you run the DNA samples?"
Scientist:      "Yes, we should have the results back 3-4 weeks."
Detective:      "OK, compare the fingerprints to the National Database."
Scientist:      "Actually, we're only authorized to use the State Database."

The second episode contained a "WHO's on first" routine about the World Health Organization and the Flu.  Both episodes contained "Totally Bogus" in which I try to guess what science stories are real (outcome of comas on soap operas) and which are false (man designs living room to look like Voyager, goes bankrupt loses wife -- actually this was true, except that his wife left him before he opted to redesign his living room).

I enjoy it enough that I am going back to the beginning and listening to all of the episodes.  I highly recommend them to Science Enthusiasts.

24,100 unadorned steps today.  Cheers,

Thursday, August 17, 2006

7/29-8/1/2006 - Marengo, IL

Would you care to do the tango?
Or nibble on a mango?
Let's dance and dine and then go
To beautiful Marengo!

Tonight I pass through Marengo, Illinois.

  • 6,400 citizens
  • 14 churches
  • 140 beautiful acres of Indian Oaks Park!

In this brief history of the city I learn:

"Calvin Spencer first came into Marengo Township in 1835 was not alone long. A. B. Coon, C. Sponable, R. I Simpkins, John Belden, Mr. Dunham and Dr. W. B. Mason followed soon after, the last named being probably the first physician in the county."

W. B. Mason? Do you mean W. B. Mason? As the latter traces it's history back to 1898 in Brockton, MA, I'm guessing no (although I suppose it could have been his grandson!).

While I'm in Marengo, I might as well check out the Illinois Railway Museum. I'm not a huge railway buff, but there was a time when the railway was the biggest employer, as well as the arteries through which the blood of commerce flowed.

At times like this, I dream longingly of a life where can I take stock of the 1,000 mile walk on which I've just engaged and gaze at a mode of transportation so alien, I need not consider it's distaste. Heck, I don't need the walk so long as I get to avoid cars, trains, etc. But no, I'll be back on my commute, bright and early tomorrow.

55,300 steps over these 4 days. Cheers,

7/26-28/2006 - John Loves Mary

Mary's Violet Eyes Make Crazy John Stay Up Nights Pondering. Chad, Too.

An august body of astronomical talent has set their eyes on taxonomy.  On August 24th, there will be a vote on a set of planetary definitions.  Until this week, there has never been an iron-clad definition of just what a planet is.  The problem is that, almost any reasonable definition of planet must either [a] exclude Pluto or [b] include something other than our famous 9.  Not wanting to rely on Greek Mythology, the commission has finally laid out a definition that would immediately welcome 3 newcomers into the club: Ceres, Charon and the aptly named 2003 UB313.

Starting from us and working our way outwards, the first new planet is Ceres.  Currently thought of as the largest asteroid in the belt between Mars and Jupiter, Ceres meets all the criteria.  What interests me most about Ceres is that it is the closest of the new potential planets, which means that we will likely increase our efforts to study it.  Who knows what that will yield, but I am very interested at the thought.  By the by, I thought that I heard that there are two other very large asteroids in the belt.  I wonder whether they are potential candidates for future planethood?

The next closest of the early candidates is Charon, better known as "Pluto's moon."  It might sound odd Pluto's moon would get planetary consideration while our own (which is bigger) would not.  The deal is that "moon" as opposed to "planet" is to be defined as being a function of relative size.  So our moon is much smaller than Earth, while Charon is close in size to Pluto.  That would make Pluto and Charon binary planets.  Pretty cool.  We have sent a probe to Pluto, which should arrive in 2015.  It would be fantastic if we also got some shots at Charon at the same time.

Our final new candidate is 2003 UB313, a.k.a. Xena (but, pneumonically, what the heck was I supposed to do with that?).  Xena is 50% farther away from us than Pluto, which makes it a lot harder to study than the other 2.  What we do know about Xena is that it is similar in make-up to Pluto, and considerably larger.  Xena is the real problem child here.  If Xena is not a planet, then how can Pluto be a planet?  I also thought I heard that Xena had a non-planular orbit around the sun, like Pluto.  I wonder whether studying the two in concert will give us any insights into gravity and its impacts on orbits?  Alas, I worry that the distance will keep us from garnering much from Xena for quite some time.

But lest you think the show ends there, there are plenty more potential planets in our solar system!  The next 12 likely candidates would be:

  • 2003 EL
  • 2005 FY
  • Sedna
  • Orcus
  • Quaoar
  • 2002 TX
  • 2002 AW
  • Varuna
  • Ixion
  • Vesta
  • Pallas
  • Hygiea

What are we going to do with that?

Elvis fearfully sees others quietly taking away various investments via parliamentary heckling?

38,000 heavenly steps today.  Cheers,

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

7/21-25/2006 - Sleepy Hollow, IL

As soon as I realized that my route took me through Sleepy Hollow, I downloaded the book (of course) and read it. Although I had never read it before, I'm fairly certain that I'd seen the Disney adaptation.

The first thing I learned is that the book takes place in NY.

The second thing I learned is that Irving clearly anticipated the future existance of goofy animation. The loving detail with which he describes the charicature that is Ichabod Crane almost begs for what Disney added to the image.

Now back to Illinois. My Sleepy Hollow may not be as storied as that Dutch Valley, but it is quaint, and dare I say cute. Founded in 1958, the city boasts fewer residents than my office building. It has a president, rather than a mayor, and a message from the president on the website.

All in all, a pleasant place to rest my weary feet as I walk through.

64,000 sopporific steps over these 5 days. Cheers,

7/18-20/2006 - Of People, Pandas and Pawns

Those who know me (including the 4 of you who read my blog - OK 5 counting JW4) know that I have been gradually drifting rightward since moving to Cambridge.  Maybe it's that I'm getting older and the base of my politics is relocating from heart to brains.  Maybe it's my naturally contrarian reaction to the "moderates" in the People's Republic of Cambridge.  But either way, my opinions have changed on many subjects, from those of the undergraduate I once was.

But if there's any subject that can drive me immediately back to my erstwhile comrades, it's the subject of Intelligent Design.  For those of you who haven't been following this issue, there are those who strongly disagree with the basic tenets of Evolution.  Simplified, evolution is essentially the theory that the current set of animals descended from some common ancestors.  So that even though octopi don't look a whole lot like elephants, you can probably find something, far enough back, that gradually evolved into each, via different routes.

Intelligent design, alternately suggests, that animals "were designed" pretty much as they are.  Sure, you can see "micro-evolution" over various time periods, but genetic material doesn't really have the ability to engender such large scale changes.

Were that all, I would have sympathy with the proponents of Intelligent Design.  I also believe a lot of things which aren't true (that markets are efficient, that I might win the lottery, that we can still do some good in Iraq).  And evolution really is offensive to some who, for whatever reason, would like to believe that humanity was put here for some higher cause.  However, they have engaged in some tactics that I just can't accept and really hurt their cause in several significant ways.  Whenever I read about the ongoing debate between ID and the Darwinists, the Liberal in me grabs a lantern and rides from Charleston to Concord…

As much as I'd like to talk more about ID (and I probably will in upcoming posts) what I really meant to say was this.  In the interest of learning more about the science and the debate, I asked Google to find me a blog on the subject.  And Google did, a blog called  The funny thing is the author of the non-anonymous blog (hey, it's even got a photo).  It's a guy who graduated from high school with me.  And not just any guy from high school.  This was my vice president of math team!  I was his vice president of the chess team!  OK, I was a big-time dork in high school.   (Of course now I'm an actuary, professional walker and part-time blogger, so I've left the past behind me).

I'm just psyched to have reconnected.

51,500 web-footed steps today.  Cheers,

Monday, August 14, 2006

7/13-17/2006 - Elk Grove Village, IL

If you ever find yourself looking for something whimsical to say about Elk Grove Village (and who wouldn't want to say something whimsical about Elk Grove Village?) I highly recommend that you stay away from this website, which appears to be entirely interested in the process of bringing business to the region. For example, here are some useful tidbits from the site's "demographics" section:

  • A diverse population encompassing all ages, occupations and incomes
  • Highly educated residents with above-average test scores and advanced levels of education
  • One of the lowest property tax rates in the metropolitan Chicago
  • An estimated controlled growth rate of 18.6% over the next 15 years

Not quite what I was looking for... Happily, there's Wikipedia, which tells me that Elk Grove is home to 35,000 people (and many elk) and was the birth place of two members of the band "Smashing Pumpkins," who are recording their first album in 7 years. It is not the birthplace of Gallagher, who was better known for smashing watermelons. While many think of watermelons as being round, the Japanese have developed a square watermelon.

But I digress.

80,600 disinterested steps over these 5 days. Cheers,

Thursday, August 10, 2006

7/10-12/2006 - On checking one's assertions

For reasons I don't fully understand, I get weekly e-mails from Ken Mehlmann, of the Republican National Party.  Talking about Senator Lieberman's defeat, this week's missive contains the sentence:

"For a political party to reject a respected Senator who just six years ago was its candidate for Vice President is virtually without precedent."

I'm sure he would have preferred to say "is without precedent," so the presence of the word "virtually" interested me particularly.  Any idea of about whom Ken was thinking?  I had the hazy recollection that there was a 1-term president who lost the re-nomination, and thought this could be what Ken was hampered by.  So I googled "one term presidents" and the top link was:
I discovered that no-less than 5 sitting presidents have lost the nomination for the second term:

  • Tyler (Whigs)
  • Fillmore (Whigs)
  • Pierce (a.k.a. worst President so far, Democrat)
  • Johnson (Liberal when he had a heart, Conservative when he had a brain)
  • Chester A. Arthur (Republican)

4 out of the 5 above Vice Presidents who became president after the deaths of their President (Harrison, Taylor, Lincoln and Garfield).  So it seems like about 10% of sitting presidents -- who, Like Lieberman, were respected enough to be named as VPs -- couldn't carry the national party within 4 years of taking office.  Based on that, I'm not sure why it would seem quite so surprising that a VP candidate couldn't carry a local party more than 4 years after failing to take office.

Had Ken omitted the word "virtually" I wouldn't even have thought to check.  This moment in civic history brought to you by the honorable goal of truth in advertising..

34,000 lame-duck waddles today.  Quack.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

7/5-9/2006 - Chicago, IL

My kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of town.
My kind of people, too.
People who smile at you

And each time I Roam, chicago is
Calling me home, chicago is
Why I just brim like a cload
Its my kind of town

My kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of razzmatazz
And it has, All That Jazz

And each time I leave, chicago is
Tuggin my sleeve, chicago is
The Wrigley Building, chicago is
The Union Stockyard, chicago is
One town that wont let youd downIts my kind of town!

79,000 blue-eyed steps today. Cheers,

7/4/2006 - Happy Birthday U.S.A.!!!

For our 10th anniversary, the family rented a cottage by a lake in New Hampshire. In many ways, quite the perfect little vacation. There was much walking, sight seeing, eating in luxury and even a little sleeping. Although only a little.

While I don't live for fireworks, I do live in Boston and have long believed that July 4th = Fireworks. Little did I know what was in store.

For starters, everyone owns fireworks in New Hampshire. I think that even I owned fireworks in New Hampshire. Starting around 5pm every night, they would go off, wherever. Near us, not near us, it's like $10,000 worth of amateur-grade fireworks were shot off every night starting with July 1st.

We asked about the 4th, hoping for a show. We were surprised to learn that our little lake village was the proud owner of the record for "earliest July 4th fireworks" in NH. At the stroke of midnight, the show would begin.

Well, with 2 kids, neither of whom sleeps perfectly, that didn't seem to be an option for us, so around 11, we crawled into bed and called it a night. What we didn't seem to realize is that the fireworks would be fired from within half a mile of our cottage.

At 12:00.01, me, the wife and my eldest sprung awake as the entire cottage rattled. Seconds later, another volley hit and we realized that sleep was done. The 3 of us ambled over to a window and watched. Despite a few trees and cottages in the way, we had a spectacular view. So we watched for a while. The eldest was inclined to try sleeping again, but nothing doing.

Forty minutes later, a tremendous volley shot off signaling that sleep was just around the corner. For several seconds, the 3 of us sat, soaking the tranquility that can only follow ammunitic cacophony. The silence was broken by the siren that we came to recognize as the baby. Perhaps he'd been awake the entire time but too terrified to cry.

With effort, we got both kids back to sleep, and eventually, ourselves.

21,100 patriotic steps tonight,

7/1-3/2006 - If you can't take the heat...

The Boston winter gave me plenty of opportunities to experiment with walking in 20 degree weather.  The Boston summer has given me a few opportunities to try the other extreme.  For the most part, I have tried to take my longer walks either in the early morning (6-8 AM) or after nightfall, but the excuse has arisen for something more adventurous now and then, and I have not looked the other way.

While I had a few mildly interesting discoveries during the winter (e.g. that to keep my fingers warm, I need a new coat, not new gloves) but I really have very little to say about summer walking.  The two tricks I have employed in the 90 degree heat are

  • Drink before I'm thirsty
  • Hug the shade

I took a pair of twenty-minute walks in 100 degree weather, but I was pretty beat when I was done.

Alaska dreaming, on such a summer's day.

45,500 hot-footed steps today.  Cheers,

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

6/26-30/2006 - Gary, IN

In the wake of the Gold Rush, Henry Wells and William Fargo saw the opportunity for a banking and delivery store, and so a National Icon was formed. From the Pony Express to the Butterfield Line, Wells, Fargo and Company became synonymous with secure transportation.

In 1888, Wells-Fargo became the first nationwide express company. By 1910 it had 6,000 locations and by 1918 it had swelled to 10,000.

As the times changed, Wells-Fargo changed with it. A short list of the banking innovations pioneered by Wells-Fargo:
  • Drive-up tellers
  • Banking by phone
  • Express lines
  • Credit cards
  • Automated teller machines
  • Online banking

Or at least, that's what the Wells-Fargo website would like to imply. Technically, all it says is:

New banking concepts not only changed where people banked, but also how they banked. Drive-up tellers, banking by phone, express lines, credit cards, automated teller machines and online banking are some of the innovative solutions to modern customers’ needs. As in the stagecoach days, Wells Fargo has been a pioneer in bringing banking convenience to its customers.

They never quite manage to say that Wells-Fargo had anything to do with these innovations. According to this website, Chemical Bank had the first working ATM. This website says that Hillcrest State Bank was the first to the drive through. The first bank issued credit card? Flatbush National Bank.


60,900 flim-flamming steps today. Cheers,

Monday, August 07, 2006

6/21-25/2006 - Michigan City, IN

Forgive me father, for I have blogged. It's been, oooh, about 2 weeks since I was last here.

That will be 4 laps around Cambridge and one stroll through Boston.

Which brings me, of all places, to Michigan City, IN. I have to say, MI, IN has one of the best web sites among the cities I've visited. The scrap book (linked a minute ago) provides a great panorama of how the beach used to appear. And the beach seems to be an important feature of the city. One of the photos calls Michigan City "the playland of the Midwest." And about now, I could use a nice walk along the beach.

Michigan City, along the banks of Lake Michigan, was conceived as a harbor to help bring supplies to the early settlers of Indiana. The land was purchased for about $200/acre (eat your heart out Canterbridgians) and the town was built.

The harbor never took off (competition from Chicago) but the ever-resiliant city turned instead to the newer mode of transportation and became a major producer of railcars.

The earliest settlers came from Massachusetts, and I'm proud that my adopted state could adopt such a city.

101,100 steps over 5 days! Cheers,

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

6/18-20/2006 - Snacking at work

I've taken to the habit of stockpiling large amounts of food at work.  Because I keep kosher, I can't just go down to the cafeteria and eat a nourishing meal (unless nourishing includes potato chips, twizzlers and diet pepsi).  Also, I eat both breakfast and lunch at work.  So I have taken to having cereal, soy milk, peanut butter, jelly and rolls around on which to feed myself.  It was a short jump from there to opening my own little cafeteria.  Now I have tea, seltzer water, oatmeal and even a few bottles of Starbucks' Frappaccino.

So today, I decided to allow myself to keep snacks around as well (even though I can get these downstairs).  I guess I must envy my kids, because my first two snacks purchased were:

  • Apple sauce (which I feed the baby) and
  • Pudding (which my eldest gets as a treat for being good on special occasions)

With all of their allergies, I still want what they have.  How odd.

55,800 regressive steps over these 3 days.  Cheers,