Archive for July, 2007

Counting the Grays

I’ve been reading quite a bit in the last several days, trying to catch up on my re-reads of all of the Harry Potter books so that I can get to its conclusion, which has been kindly awaiting me on the bookshelf, slowly pulsing a golden glow and calling to me every once in a while.

I ran into an interesting problem today at work: after all of the reading I had done over the last few days (I spent hours at it nonstop over the weekend), I couldn’t see—in the sense that I simply couldn’t get my eyes to focus on my computer screen. Perhaps this was because it was further away than the books I’d been reading, or perhaps it was because the text on my laptop screen is generally smaller than the books I’d been reading, but whatever it was, nothing would come into focus. I finally decided that perhaps it was best if I head home and rest my eyes or take a nap or something (something that will be taking place as soon as I finish this post and eat lunch).

On my way home, though, I decided to try something. I stopped in at Walgreens and bought my first-ever pair of—gulp—reading glasses. If it was simply that my eyes were overworked and tired, perhaps reading glasses would help me to relieve that strain. And sure enough, these things are awesome. Yes, it’s a little strange what happens when I take them off (having never really worn any kind of glasses, besides a short stint when I played baseball and the doctors thought that they’d help my depth perception—they didn’t), but for reading up close or working on my computer, I think these things are going to get a lot of use.

At the same time, though, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m just turning into some older, grayer version of myself. One that can’t party like he did in college and shouts at kids to get off his lawn. And it’s because of that guy that I ask the question:

Why are we so afraid of growing old?

Like I said before, these glasses are awesome. I don’t even have to work to focus my eyes on what I’m reading, and that’s saying a lot, given that I only have one eye that’s normal. But the fact remains that as I start to get older, and the gray in my hair—which started showing up around the age of seventeen—begins to become more and more noticeable by other people instead of just by myself, I start to, I dunno, resent myself for not being able to do the things I could do when I was younger, or at least not without help. Even that resentment started when I was relatively young, when I discovered that I had a congenital ankle condition that essentially prevented me from doing the same things that other kids did—running, for example, was something I could only do in small amounts, because any lengthy pressure on my heels caused immense pain later in the day. And it made me feel a little more useless inside.

I think that’s where this fear of aging comes from, too. As we get older, we realize that we aren’t as solid as we used to be, and that makes us feel more, well, mortal. Maybe it’s precisely because kids don’t feel those aches and pains and little quirks of age that they tend to feel invincible, whereas the wisdom of age comes from knowing that this isn’t the case.

Maybe it’s just that I think reading glasses are a crutch, and I don’t feel like I need it, when obviously, I do. Maybe someday I’ll need crutches for my ankles, too, and I’ll go through this all over again.

“It’s a very, very…”

My friend Nichole sent me a link to a video that really caught my attention. Mostly, I thought that the video was very sad and touching, but the music really grabbed me. It’s a cover of a Tears For Fears song called Mad World, by Gary Jules, and it’s a really good one—better, in my opinion, than the original.

Anyway, I had the song stuck in my head all day Friday, and between getting home in the afternoon and leaving for our night of Harry Potter-related festivities (by the way: if I ever say again that I want to go to a release party at midnight for a children’s book, slap me very hard in the face), I sat down at the piano keyboard and the computer and put together my own cover of Gary Jules’ cover of Mad World. Over the weekend I’ve tweaked it a little bit and I liked it enough to show it to the five of you that read this blog all of you.

Comments and critiques are very welcome. :)

Airport security detains man because of iPod charger

I just read a story about a guy who was detained and almost prevented from boarding his airplane because he had a homemade iPod charger—an iPod charger, I should add, that had absolutely no traces of explosives on it:

Homemade iPod charger

He asks what it is. I tell him it is a battery charger for my iPod. He asks if I made it myself, to which I reply that I purchased a kit over the internet. He says that he can’t let me on the plane with it. I explain to him that I have flown with it 4-6 times a month for a year now and nobody has questioned it. He says, “Not on my watch and not with my people.”

Now, I’m not an idiot, and I know that a device that looks like this is going to be suspicious at the least. But come on: it only takes a cursory glance at this thing to see that there’s no place to put any explosives! Let alone the fact that two D-cell batteries wouldn’t have the juice to blow up anything.

Kudos, though, to the Port Authority Police Department who were called to the scene who, upon investigating the device, they did a simple thing and plugged Damon Burke’s USB reading light into the charger and—surprise, surprise—the light lit up! At this point the security inspectors allowed him to board the plane, provided that he remove the evil, evil D-cell batteries from the charger.

Do we honestly think that things like this are making our flights safer? I think that Burke puts it best when he says:

They wouldn’t have grasped that the spare battery for my laptop was far more dangerous than the iPod charger. A dead short of the MintyBoost! would produce a little heat (maybe 4 watts total), a dead short of the laptop battery would likely cause an explosion of the battery…. and I had two of them fully charged. But these are the times we live in. A handful of people with no knowledge of physics, engineering, or pyrotechnics are responsible for determining what is and what is not safe to bring on a plane. They’re paid minimum wage and told to panic if they see something they don’t recognize. Does this make me feel safer? It doesn’t really matter.

Best. Birthday Week. Ever.

First, I want to thank everybody for the birthday wishes (it was Thursday, if you didn’t know); it meant a lot.

I took Thursday and Friday off last week and went down to visit a friend in Philadelphia. Having never been to Philly, it was a very interesting trip. I’d never driven down the Jersey Turnpike before, so it was… educational, to say the least. It was actually much more fun than I thought it would be—the traffic on the Turnpike itself wasn’t bad at all. Hell, the traffic up to the George Washington Bridge was far worse than what came after it.

The mini-vacation was pretty laid-back, which was nice. My friend Mike and his girlfriend Meg were consummate hosts and they made me feel completely at home. Even their pets did a great job at that: their cat, Charlie, spent the night with me the whole time I was there, and both dogs (Ralphie, a beagle/something mix, and Stella, a full-blooded beagle) spent a good amount of time on the bed with me as well. We went out to dinner on Thursday night, then Meg had to go to bed because she had to work on Friday. Mike and I stayed up and I showed him the wonders of Guitar Hero, which he’d never seen.

Friday was somewhat of a lazy day; while Meg was at work, Mike and I went out to lunch, then came back and put on the Porcupine Tree DVD, at which point I fell asleep on the couch (with the cat lying on top of me). Waking refreshed, we took the train out to Mike’s friend’s apartment; said friend was holding a “Bro-BQ” (i.e. no girls allowed). Several hours of food and beer later found Mike and I waiting for the last bus on the route to take us back, and an extremely grumpy but very nice bus driver allowed me to ride even after I, idiot that I was, hadn’t realized that I would need exact change for the bus fare and only had a $10 bill.

Saturday saw the three of us all sleeping late—I was up the earliest at 9:30, at which point I showered and then headed downstairs so as not to disturb the others, started reading (On Writing, by Stephen King, which is an awesome book), and after about twenty minutes promptly fell asleep on the couch (with—you guessed it—the cat lying on top). Once the others got up I joined them and they made us a big home-cooked breakfast (did I mention what awesome hosts these people were?). The idea was brought up to me after lunch of going to an amusement park—a water park-slash-amusement park, to be more precise, and given that it was going to be around 90 degrees that day, it sounded like a wonderful idea. A trip to Target later for a swimsuit and we were off. We got to Dorney Park around 4:30 and waited 15 minutes before entering the park, because we got in at half price and lots of people were leaving, which was nice. What wasn’t nice, however, was my not thinking about what was on my feet. I had worn my shoes to the park, because I knew that we’d be riding roller coasters and stuff later on, and I had just assumed that I would walk barefoot around the water park, but what I hadn’t planned was that the cement would be textured like the rough side of Mount Everest. It wasn’t but ten minutes before my feet had holes in them so large you’d have thought I had the stigmata. I went on one water ride and couldn’t deal with it anymore, so I went to the first aid station to get bandaged up—they gave me bandages and waterproof tape and asked me why I hadn’t bothered to get “aqua socks”, which had been on sale at the front of the park. I stated simply that if I’d known they sold them I would have bought them but I hadn’t seen any signs (and sure enough, the only signs for them that I could see were visible only when looking toward the exit of the park). Long story short, I’m wearing giant band-aids on the soles of my feet and they hurt. :( But it was made up for with many, many rides on some really, really awesome roller coasters (there were something like seven of them in the park).

Sunday was another sleep-in day for us. Mike and I had made plans to play a round of golf in the morning, but that was squashed the night before, given the situation with my feet and the fact that the roller coasters had pretty much made us all extremely sore. It was essentially a morning to recover and prepare for what turned out to be the most surprising and pleasing part of my trip:

On Thursday, while I was driving down, I had stopped to get gas and my phone rang. It was my friend Melissa, calling to wish me a happy birthday. Melissa moved with her fiance to Tampa a few years ago and I hadn’t seen her since the going-away party, and over the last while we haven’t talked as much as we would like, so it was a real treat to hear from her. She asked if I was at work, so I told her what my plans for the weekend were, and when she heard that I was going to be in Philly, she excitedly told me, “I’ll be there too! I’m coming up on Sunday for a conference. We should have lunch when I get in!” So I agreed to meet her at the airport and we would go to lunch. So when I got to the airport, I had no idea where we could go—she suggested that we just start heading north on the highway, since that was the direction she was headed toward her hotel, too. I had no clue as to where we would eat, so we kind of kept an eye on the sides of the highway for a decent place to eat, and then Melissa spotted a sign pointing to an area of town that she thought her hotel was in, so I pulled off that exit. We found a pizza place to eat, caught up for an hour or so, and then I took her to her hotel, which luckily only happened to be about a mile and a half from where we were (thank you, Melissa’s quick eyes and Google Maps on my phone!), said our goodbyes and I headed back to the highway.

A long, long drive later, including about an hour and a half waiting for the GW bridge and I-95 past it again, and I finally got home last night at around 8:30. I was exhausted and not altogether ready to come back to work today, but after all that it was good to be home, even though there are no pets coming to keep me company this evening.

Thanks again to Mike & Meg, and to those of you who remembered my birthday. :)

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