About Me

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I'm a life-long New Englander, father of 4 challenging kids (I know: I'm supposed to say "wonderful", but while that'd be true, technically speaking, it'd also be misleading), and fortunate husband to my favorite wife of more than 20 years. I've got over 20 years experience breaking things as a test engineer, quality engineer, reliability engineer, and most recently (and most enjoyably) a Product Safety / EMC Compliance Engineer. In the photo, I'm on the left.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Kayaking in August

So a few weeks ago the wife and I bought these:

(image from wildernesssystems.com)

We've been spending quite a bit of weekend time finding new places to paddle and...well...paddling.

I thoughts I'd share with you a pictorial of our outing of this weekend (four or five hours' worth of paddling):

These are two views of the lovely reservoir that we chose this weekend. This is a 530-acre reservoir that, surprisingly to those of us just getting into this sport, is remarkably close to ot tiny home! Took us about 20 minutes to get there.

This is Mr. (or Mrs.) Cormorant. There were several of these suckers on the lake.

When I saw the number of swans that littered the reservoir, I was actually stunned. I have never seen so many swans in one day.

Cool plants:

By far the most spectacular fellow we saw up close and personal (I actually got within 25 feet or so when this guy decided he didn't like my stench):

We also saw a sizeable Osprey, which I was not quick enough to capture with my sub-adequate camera (most of these images above were taken by my beautiful wife), and a small hawk that flew low just over our heads with its breakfast in talon.

Go buy a kayak!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Benefits of Lethargy

I know...what??

In fact, this conversation is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I can't help arguing that lazy folks have done far more good for this world than they get credit for.

I have a vested interest in this argument, of course; I come from an exceedingly long line of talented and accomplished lethargists, and I find it distressing that conventional wisdom would have it that our people's (lethargists) collective contribution to the world is nothing other than waste of time, waste of opportunity, and a burden to so-called "productive" people everywhere.

You see it all the time; there are quotes and adages like, "Idle hands are the Devil's playthings" or this quote:

"Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy."
~Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

No, no, Pyotr! I disagree. I think that Agatha Christie had it right:

“I don't think necessity is the mother of invention. Invention . . . arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness. To save oneself trouble.”
~Agatha Christie

Remembering that I'm right now in a bit of a whimsical mood, let us look upon some of what I think that *we* think are great advantages of our lives today, and see what inspired these things...

When mankind felt too lazy to carry his own seeds and plants, he invented the hand cart (or what is today the wheelbarrow). A great gizmo, that.

Early fishers had a devil of a time keeping their faces below water long enough for a fish to swim into their mouths; they invented the fishing pole and promptly sat on the shore sleeping while fish swallowed hooks and waited patiently to be killed.

Sick of chasing down prey animals like the cave bear and slaying them with teeth and fingers, early hunters invented the spear, and ultimately the bow! The later invention of the rifle allowed red necks everywhere to sit up in trees and swill beer in order to catch food: just aim & shoot. Piece of cake, PLUS, they got out of the house for a day without chores.

The invention of the automobile came about because some fellow was too lazy to actually walk to the store for his bread. "Wouldn't it be easier to sit in a seat and just ride there?" Wondered he. "And too: I could do it all in one trip, not having to talk to and fro so many times for so much to get home." Thus: the car.

The sail that you see on boats was invented because someone was too lazy to row. And not for nothing, the vikings could easily have swam to North America (the less lazy folks who got here ahead of the vikings walked, after all), but it was easier to do it in a boat...lethargy strikes again.

Once upon a time, if you wanted to talk to someone, you walked over to their house and had a chat. That changed with the telephone, and the lazy escalated to where we are today: e-mail and texting. How many folks text to other people who are in the same house as them (I know I do!!)?

Gas ovens, so we don't want to have to cut the wood, stack it, bring it in, and pay attention to the state of the fire? Microwave ovens, because we're too lazy to cook on the stove? Frozen dinners, so I don't have to cut anything or peel potatoes?

Vacuum cleaners, because it's too much work to sweep (or take out and beat the carpets). These led to robots that sweep and wash the floors!

I'm going to submit that MOST of the modern-day conveniences that we feel like we just can't do without were invented by someone who just wanted to sit down and relax.

So the next time you sit in your car with bags and bags of groceries, or the next time you text someone, or vacuum the floors, use an electric knife, or ride your ride-on lawn mower, thank the anonymous lazy fellow who invented it. He may well have been one of my antecedents!

--This post dictated to my computer through voice-recognition software.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Love a Rainy Day

It's blissfully quiet now. First time in a long time.

Sunday morning.

Rainy Sunday morning. I thought that I'd catch up on some reading.

One of the first places that I go to catch up on some reading is The Feathered Nest.

Deloris has a keen way of putting many things in perspective succinctly.

On Thursday Delores spent some time Absorbing the Green. Yes...you can do that.

I think that there are few things better in this life than a nice persistent rain when it's needed. Although admittedly in my area we've been getting a lot of intermittent rain for many days now. The green here is very absorbable.

Today is Sunday, and Delores' rain is now falling upon me. My world this morning is an echo of what Delores had on Thursday. Quiet, but deeper. Rain and snow seem to deaden harsh sounds noises.

I can't for the life of me fathom why some people don't like the rain. It's too often not looked upon, I think, for the grace that it is. Why do I like what so many folks would call "dreary" weather? I'll submit that my definition of "dreary" is different from the mainstream definition as it applies to this conversation.

Visitors that almost always come to call on a rainy day, but seldom come on a day that is not rainy:

Quiet - such an elusive ally - comes to call on a rainy day. Quiet has had wanderlust the past weeks, and has been errant my doorstep, but today, at last, she has come to visit...at least for a cup of coffee in the morning. She arrived in the night while I slept, though she does not know how long she can stay. We shall see.

Calm - Quiet's twin - has also while I slept nestled into my home. Calm usually visits only after Quiet has been in residence for a while. Calm is insidious, and I am generally not aware of his presence until he leaves. I am glad that he came in the night; he's always easier to spot in an empty room.

Peace - first cousin to Quiet and Calm - is here today as well, and often comes to me with the gift of limited, optimistic prescience. Peace whispers in my ear on a rainy day that it is unlikely that my home will be invaded by visitors. Visitors aren't a bad thing, really, but they pretty much are guaranteed to chase Quiet and Calm (both of whom are the quintessential introverts) out through the back door. Peace arrives on the heels of my sense that Quiet and Calm will share more than just a quick cup of coffee with me. The twins, I think, will be here for most of this morning.

Satisfaction - not a stranger by any means, but a (if I may use the word) polymorphic friend - comes with the rain in a particular way. Often, Satisfaction points out to me a job well done, or a soccer game well played. On days that are not rainy Satisfaction is often accompanied by Exhaustion (an often welcome visitor, Exhaustion is a high-maintenance visitor who wears out his welcome pretty quickly) and shows up after I've had a fair wrestling match with Honeydo. On a rainy day, like today, Satisfaction is joined by one of my favorite allies: Reflection.

Reflection - often a neglected friend of mine - grows into my home very much like a plant. Reflection needs sunlight, to be sure, but also needs the rain, and on rainy days, just as the parched plants in my yard (and in Delores' yard, it seems) raise their faces to the rain-soaked sky in adoration and seem to come to proper life, Reflection proliferates due to the rain. For me, Reflection is always easier to find (and therefore visit with) on a rainy day. Reflection is a philosopher, which may be why I enjoy her company so well. She is inquisitive and provocative, and asks sometimes hard questions that need answering, but that always lead to deeper questions, which lead me along warrens and paths to eventually find and recognize Reflection's children:

Contentment, Pleasure, Gratitude, and Sufficiency - but four of Reflection's children (there are too many to list comprehensively) play at my house on a rainy day. This morning, the house is not spotless - my own laundry is left incomplete and is draped over the back of the sofa, dishes are in the sink, and there are many things out of place (the natural effect of living in a home, really), and there are a lot of what should be irritating things similarly watching me and silently wondering when they will be attended. But after my conversations with my rainy day visitors I like to watch Reflection's children play. They tell stories of my own children at times - how they are growing or have grown into fine specimens of humanity (if not yet humility). They remind me that through all of our trials, my lovely wife of so many years (who yet slumbers under Peace's kiss) is still my best friend and biggest fan...the one person in the world who legitimately and unfailingly has my best interests in her heart. They also remind me that in this world so full of suffering and strife where so many are without, my house is full of food, laughter, good will, and all manner of things that make worthwhile those times when my rainy day visitors are off to parts unknown.

Soon the inhabitants of my home will wake. Quiet will be the first to depart, though she may linger to greet the first one or two who rise up to join me. Quiet does not like to be around lots of people at once. Calm rarely lingers when Quiet departs. He is protective of his twin. I don't usually see Calm show up, but I always know when he leaves.

Reflection is chased away pretty quickly too as life returns to my little house, and Peace is a bit capricious, really. and may linger or not as people wake up. You just never really know.

Satisfaction and reflection's children, however, do linger typically. The children like to watch as new stories are made - stories that they can replay for me during later visitations - and they have sharp minds and wits.

Thus do I find myself on a rainy day reacquainted with Recollection. Recollection is one of my favorite visitors. He is a small imp, much like Puck from A Midsummer Night's Dream. He is imperfect, and causes different people to relive the same set of event in different ways. Recollection reminds me of events often differently than he reminds others of those same events. Like Puck, Recollection is a peculiarly magical entity. 

Recollection causes me to relive my life in such a way that He leaves out critical players (like Anger, who may have slipped in under the door or Resentment who likes to poke those who do not like to be poked), which allows me to today laugh at things that transpired in my life that at the time made me very angry or hurt, or even frightened.

Have you ever had one of those experiences that, at the time, was very tumultuous, but you or someone said something along the lines of, "Someday, you'll look back on this and smile (or laugh)"?

That transition from the experience itself (from yelling or crying) to the recollection of the experience (now displaced by years) when you *do* laugh or smile at it, is the work of these rainy day visitors.

They may not come to your house on rainy days, but that's when they visit me, and that's why I Love a Rainy Day.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Greatest Olympic Athlete of All Time...?

So I've been watching a lot of Olympics lately. I'm pretty sure many of us have. Here in the states you can't get away from the swimming and gymnastics events...it's just about all that any media is talking about (and as of yesterday the women's soccer team too).

They keep calling Michael Phelps the Greatest Olympic Athlete of all time.

This is trash, I think.

Not to belittle the things that Michael has accomplished. He's definitely an outstanding swimmer, but does that make him the greatest athlete of all time?

For those of you who watch and follow American Football, this conversation puts me in mind of so many (many, many) conversations about Drew Bledsoe - the long-time quarterback for my own beloved New England Patriots. His supporters will tell you that he's one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He set all kinds of records for passing yards, passing attempts, and such.

Well, he set records for passing attempts because his coach repeatedly told him to try to pass the ball. He set records for passing yards because he was a great thrower and had excellent accuracy. AND the coach told him to throw the ball. That happens when you have no running game.

I can't in good faith claim that Drew was a great quarterback. He was an excellent thrower though (and a true sportsman as well). I don't think he read defenses 'with the best of them' and his ability to scramble was limited to making eggs.

In the same way, I can't get behind the claim that Michael Phelps is the greatest athlete of all time. He's clearly an excellent swimmer. Looks to me like the undisputed best in the world, judging by all the records and medals he now owns. Is he the best ever? I don't know (I don't seem to know much, do I?)

As for the "Greatest Athlete" part, I'd have to submit that the primary reason that he's got so many damn medals is because he has the opportunity to participate in so many damn events. Contrast that to the soccer teams, who have the opportunity to win only one medal every four years. In fact, I'll go out on a ledge to say that *most* athletes have the opportunity to win comparatively few medals compared to swimmers (and gymnasts or track & field athletes).

So Michael got four gold medals and two silver medals this year. It's certainly impressive, but does that make him a greater or better athlete than anyone on the women's soccer team? How about the women's beach volleyball team? Or anyone from any of the teams where they only have the opportunity to win ONE medal every four years?

As for the "...of All Time" part, is that fair? Mark Spitz was an Olympic swimmer, but he only participated in two sets of Olympic games (1968 & 1972). Between these two sets of games Mark won 9 gold, a silver, and a bronze. Strict math tells us that Michael has done better than that, but back in the late '60s and early '70s things were different.

Swimmers had hair, for one thing. They also wore ridiculous suits. Ok...they *still* wear ridiculous suits, but today's ridiculous suits are designed to improve swim times. So are the caps that they wear, but that they didn't wear back in Spitz's time.

In addition to longer careers, today's athletes have many advantages over yesterday's:
Diet (including the chemical additives that are in so many of today's common foodstuffs), technique, equipment (which is better designed from different (more advantageous) materials to be more effective / less drag...), electronic measurement systems, etc.

I have to wonder what might happen if we stuck Michael in a pool with ALL of the swimmers who ever came before, all of them at their peak, put them in just pain old swimming trunks like you see in backyards across America, and told them to race. Make sure that they've all got hair too.

Who would win? Again: I don't know, but I think that there's a lot to say for doing things the ancient ways: naked.

Just you and the other participants, built the way you were born.

Is Michael the greatest Olympic athlete of All Time? Just because he has more medals than any other athlete?

Not to my thinking. I don't even think that he deserves the title of Greatest Olympic Athlete of 2012. I think that title should go to Ashton Eaton, who won the gold in the Decathlon.

To be clear: Until I wrote this, I had never heard of Ashton Eaton. I just did a websearch for "Decathlon" and his name showed up as the one who took gold for the men this year.

You get a gold (bear in mind: a single Gold Medal) from a two-day, ten-event trial, and then I think you have greater claim to the title "Greatest Athlete" for that year. They probably aren't even the best in the world for each of those individual events (I'll bet).

Michael Phelps did one thing repeatedly better than anyone else: he swam (affording myself some latitude for the different strokes that are in swimming).

Ashton Eaton did ten different events from Javelin Throwing to Running to Pole Vaulting...) in aggregate better than anyone else did those same ten events.

Of all time? I like to be careful when I use phrases like this, being as left-brained and logic-bound as I am. We don't have any visibility whatever to the Olympic games or athletes who actually started this competition. We have records as far back as 776 BCE, but they were going on before that. Of course in those early games, according to about.com, there was only one event, and it was a foot race.

What did those folks look like? Remembering also that back then, they didn't spend 24/7 training for the Olympics. When the time came, they dropped what they were doing and headed off for Greece. In fact, the winner of the game in 776 BCE was a cook named Coroebus (it's on the internet, so it must be true, right?).

Coroebus no doubt took his laurel wreath, and when he caught his breath went back to his kitchen to make something to eat. Laurel wreath broth, no doubt.

The ancient games ran (no pun intended) up until 393 CE...over a thousand years of (recorded) Olympic games. Who's the "Greatest of all Time"?


Friday, August 3, 2012

Archery Lessons

One thing that I've been passively interested in for a long, long time is archery.

I have owned a recurve bow for many years now, and always had this 'I'd like to get a target and start messing around with that' inkling. My family has a generations-long tradition of procrastination, and so it is that only recently (in part an effort to get the "kids" (in quotes because they are much older now, and for the most part somewhere between child and adult) off of their video games and outside actually doing something) that I actually took an active step in getting out and playing at archery.

Thus, we tripped down to the local sporting goods store and got the bow strung, bought a target, and some arrows, and set things up in the back yard.

We are all in the family pretty new at this, though, so we miss the target more often than we hit it.

I guess the second scion needed some inspiration...call it focus...whatever you will. He did this:

You may be able to see that the lad hit the bunny too: just above its stuffy little heart. This, from the family vegetarian!