Category Archives: Baboon Achievers

Escape Artists

Photo Credit: Texas Biomedical Research Institute

Baboons were making the news again yesterday – escaping from a facility in San Antonio.

Per CNN, “Four baboons, having clearly read too much dystopian fiction, escaped a biomedical research lab in San Antonio by climbing a 55-gallon barrel and jumping out of their enclosure.  The institute says the three baboons and their turncloak co-conspirator are all “doing well.”  The blue barrels they used to escape, however, have been removed from the enclosure and will be evaluated. Perhaps they enriched too much.”

What would you like for a little enrichment?

 

 

Mathematics #1: A Wall of Lights and Estimation Skills

Today’s post comes from NorthShorer.

Four weeks ago the night after I had the useless shots in my back I could not sleep and decided at 3:00 a.m. to take out the garbage. When I opened the door to the garbage room, I walked into a wall of lights.

The owners of our building finagled two grants to install LED lights throughout the building at only slight cost. I have been hearing about this for a couple months and imagined, I suppose, a few small boxes of bulbs, not that pile, which is only half the bulbs for the hallways, security lights, garage lights, and parking lot lights. Another pile even larger was in the other garbage room at the other end of the building. Reminded me of a few stories of people who failed to estimate the weight and volume of pennies they either ordered or amassed. To be fair these new lights are not just bulbs; they need new fixtures. For instance all the standard recessed tube lights in the three stories will be replaced by a same size fixture holding several LED bulbs.

What also is surprising is how much brighter are the LED lights in the garage and hallways. Our yard is almost daylight from the new security light above us. I have avoided LED lights because they gave such dim light.

On Wednesday they will install LED lights in the attached lights in all apartments, which is nice for me because I cannot reach the ceiling lights. They will also cart away for free all of the fluorescent bulbs we have. Our apartment is about the average. It will get 27 new bulbs. The building has 65 apartments, plus eight other rooms to get bulbs. 27 times 65 equals 1,755 bulbs. Add in another four dozen to get, say, 1,800 or so. How big a pile will that be? I bet each will come in a protective carton. I happened to be in the Batteries Plus store recently. The owner noticed my address and said he was supplying just the bulbs. He, too, had underestimated the volume. The supplier told him the bulbs would have to be shipped to the apartment building because they would not fit in his strip mall store.

All the medical facilities in this town will soon get LED bulbs under a grant from the same sources. There are six large clinics and the massive hospital, plus a couple smaller ones. What will those piles look like? I am pleased for this change because the tube lights give me a bad headache while I wait around.

Estimation is a vital skill. Schools are doing more to teach it, for one thing to try to get kids not to just accept what their fancy graphing calculators say. I am usually rather good at estimation, except in extraordinary events like these lights. I am very good at estimating distances and travel times. For weights I am usually far off. I know what time it is quite well without using a clock, a skill I developed working outside as a child. I don’t have to be outside seeing the sun to do this. Not sure if this is estimation, but I almost always know which way is north. When I do get turned around, I get agitated. I used to astound my partner with this ability plus the ability to remember routes we took on a previous visit, sometimes months before. In the post and common roads of the Northeast that is a challenging skill.

The students used to be astounded by how the chemistry teacher and I could quickly estimate calculations and come close. He was a very intelligent man and knew rapid calculation skills. His estimations were often exact..

I am intrigued byhow computers find complex answers through a series of estimations instead of seeking an exact answer when it is not needed. This shortens the time for calculation, often by days.

How are you at estimation of volume, distance, weight, time needed for a task? Do you know what time it is without looking at a clock? Do you know which way is north on unfamiliar ground? Can you guess the number of beans in the jar? Do you always measure carefully for recipes?

Modern Marvels

My animals are costing me sleep.   For several months, my old cat (Zorro) has been hanging out downstairs, avoiding YA’s dog (Guinevere).  Then about a month or so ago, Zorro decided he would really like to spend time on the radiator in my room.  At night.  But he’s afraid of the dog and I don’t blame him; when she gets woken up suddenly she lunges at him.  She’s never actually touched him but I wouldn’t want a 50-lb shepherd mix lunging at me in the middle of the night either.  Zorro is quite vocal about this whole scenario and this has led to me getting out of bed, turning on the light and standing between the two of them while Zorro moves from the doorway to the radiator (although once Guinevere is fully awake, she doesn’t really care what Zorro does).  Once often twice a night.  Occasionally more than that.

One of the things that I know about Guinevere is that she is afraid of pretty much everything. If I put a 5” box in a doorway, she won’t jump over it, even though I know she can; I’ve seen her practically levitate 4 feet in the air in the backyard when she thinks she might get a rabbit or squirrel.  I thought if there was a way to have a barrier between the two, then Zorro could come in at his leisure, Guinevere couldn’t get to him with her lunge and hopefully I could get more sleep.

Since assuming I can train a cat is problematic, I didn’t want to go out and spend a bunch of money on gates or tunnels before I knew if I had proof of concept.   So I collected up some cardboard boxes and built a little wall that goes from the door to the bed.  It’s just cardboard and duct tape so not pretty at all and right now I have some shoes stabilizing it in the middle section.  The theory is that I can fold it up during the day and just take it out at night.

So far Zorro is not impressed and I think the contraption is confusing him a bit. I’ve been using treats to urge him on, but a couple of times, once he got about halfway, he just turned around and went back downstairs.  The good news is that I was correct and Guinevere won’t even consider going over the barrier.  Only 2 nights so far, so I’m still hopeful.

What major engineering feats to you admire?

 

 

MONEY IS NOT THE ONLY MOTIVATION

Being an author whose books have “yet to achieve” major bestseller status isn’t particularly rewarding in the monetary sense. Currently, my greatest rewards come from meeting avid readers, advocating for literacy and the love of reading, and making friends with other writers around the world.

That being said, the biggest motivator for me is helping my favorite charity through sales of my books. All these perks are worth far more than any money I hope to someday earn from my book sales.

GIVING DAY

I recently had the privilege of making a donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern MN for $297 generated from book sales in 2017. I donate one dollar to BBBS for every copy of Castle Danger I sell–print or eBook. I raised additional dollars by asking people to round up the purchase price of the print book to $20 when they buy a copy. I sold 190 books in 2017. Nearly every person who bought a book from me in person gladly rounded up the extra $1.80 to an even $20.

I’m pleased to announce my sales increased from 2016, so I was able to donate more money to BBBS this year. I hope to continue that upward sales trend in 2018. I expect sales will be boosted when Straight River is published (as soon as is humanly possible!!) With steady sales of Castle Danger continuing this year added to new sales of Straight River later this year, I hope to reach a $400 donation for 2018.

(Point of interest: even if I factor back in my BBBS donations, I’ve still only covered about 60% of the total cost of producing, editing, formatting, printing, and promoting Castle Danger. And I don’t even want to think about all the coffee and pastries I’ve purchased to fuel my writing energy! Warning: Think twice before becoming a writer for the income. 🙂 )

What do you do (or what have you done) that surprised you by generating more personal rewards than you expected than financial rewards?

P.S.–If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a Big Brother, Big Sister, or Big Couple, check out the national BBBS website or click on the Southern MN link above.

Blatant self-promotion: Hey, Babooners, I’ve got several signing appearances scheduled in the Twin Cities and greater MN (and WI) this year. The first one is in Rosemount on Saturday, March 24. I’ll also be in Hudson, WI, and Hopkins, Morristown, Owatonna, Hackensack, and Mankato later this year. To get all the details, go to chrisnorbury.com or like my FB author page.

 

 

Waits, Waits, Don’t Tell Me

The Bible gives us a metaphor about those folks, those confounded ten-talent people. You know them!

Jesus tells a metaphor about using money expressed in talents, which has turned into a metaphor for the fact that we have varieties and numbers of gifts, that is talents as we use the word today. The parable tells us that some people have ten talents. You know them!

My sympathies are with the timid one-talent guy who comes off so badly in the parable. (Matthew 25:14–30, in case you want to look it up.)

Bill Bailey is a favorite of ours on British television, excepting that fact that he has many talents. Some of you may know him as Manny, the flaky assistant in the wacky Black Books. As well as an actor, he is also a stand-up comic, a writer of comedy, and deeply gifted in music, skilled at improvisation in music and in comedy. We know him for QI and others of the many British TV panel comedy shows. We love him especially for his part in Walks with My Dogs, a show in which various British celebrities walk famous trails around Britain with their dogs. The show is laid back, slow-paced, calming. Bailey’s unassuming manner is perfect. He rescues dogs. Of course, he does. He is also a sort of PDQ Bach comedian, working with orchestras, for one thing with his Odd Guide to the Orchestra. His piece about bassoons is hilarious.

Here he is doing a send-up of Tom Waits. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RztSrL4utdg

Forty years ago I had a student who was a true ten-talent person. You could count them. Despite her modest and warm manner (people skills was one of talents), she aggravated her friends to no end for it, especially since she found the talents a burden at 16-18 years of age. I would like to tell you her name, such a delightfully Norwegian name. But I will not.

A few Babooners have more than one talent, a couple at least approaching the metaphoric ten number. I, for one, am a wannabe. I am certain that most Babooners move in circles that include a ten-talent person or two. Oh, yes, you know them!

Tell us about ten-talent people you know and how well they have managed them.

Do your multiple talents distract you?

Mission Baboon – Accomplished!

Time to celebrate.

We’ve officially made it over a year on our own and now we’ve covered the cost of the Trail for the next year.  261 posts.  We average 1,085 comments a month with an all-time total of 131,623 comments.  Every week we average between 850 and 1,000 views and a whopping 806,982 total views over the years with 6,276 followers.  Our most active time of day is 9 a.m.  I think the baboons are thriving!

We’re celebrating. What would you like to see at the party?

The College Years

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms

In the fall of 1960 I became a freshman at Grinnell College. The class of ’64 went on to win a spotty reputation as perhaps the most talented but troublesome classes in college history. The 1960s were a turbulent time in higher education all across the nation.

Those years, for me, were amazingly transformative. I entered that period as a provincial, shy, sanctimonious kid from a small Iowa town. I was some sort of Republican, a passive sort of Christian. I was also a prig who was offended by folks who smoked, drank alcohol, had sex out of wedlock or swore. I had terrible study habits and little discipline. My first crisis was discovering whether I was equal to the challenge of college coursework. I spent my freshman year in terror of flunking out.

Even the simple business of living in a dorm was threatening for me. In high school I avoided two kinds of people: the boys and the girls. At Grinnell I was obliged to live in a dormitory with 30 young men whom I did not know. I soon learned my dorm buddies farted, got drunk and hosed each other down with language so vulgar I didn’t know what the words meant. For a while I wondered if I might be gay because the guys around me were so crude and aggressive that I felt I belonged to a different species.

Grinnell shocked me in good ways, too. I had lived 18 years of my life totally ignorant of the complex delights of classical music. The college offered live concerts with music so powerful it sometimes reduced me to tears. Among my dorm mates were guys who played folk guitar and bluegrass banjo. I fell in love with that until music was so important I couldn’t imagine having lived without it.

Something similar happened with respect to the world of books, social debates, historical dilemmas, appreciation of visual arts, and many other areas. Because Grinnell was so isolated (“in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by cornfields”) the college tried hard to import exciting speakers and artists. Attending lectures on fascinating topics was free and easy: all one had to do was show up and listen. I found out I cared about ideas and history and art to a degree I had not known was possible.

The kid who left Grinnell four years later was very little like the kid who showed up in 1960. I’m convinced that all of us change, and in fact we change every year we are alive. But some changes are vastly more significant than others, and my Grinnell years were that.

What about you? If you attended college, what did the experience mean to you?