Category Archives: Media

Soak It In

I am a Neil deGrasse Tyson buff.  I’ve read several of his books, follow his current podcast (Star Talk) and own a t-shirt with a NdGT quote and a bracelet that I saw on his website of the planets in order.  (I actually made my own bracelet based on his design and I added Pluto – he may be smart, but Pluto will always be one of my planets!)

One of the things that I admire most is his ability to take difficult concepts and to distill them down so that most of us can understand them.  I was re-listening to his description of how the tides actually work/exist and wondered what it would be like to take a class from him (an entry-level class of course – I’ve encountered some of his work that is NOT distilled down and it is way over my head).

My favorite classes in college were always lectures.  I don’t need any small discussion groups or multi-student projects – just let me sit in the presence of great professors while I soak up their knowledge.  Between Carleton and Metro State I took five Shakespeare courses from two different professors – fabulous.  There was a spellbinding Chinese Middle Kingdom class and the professor who taught my King Arthur in English and American Literature (yes, a real class for which I got credit) held my attention like no other.

But based on YA’s master’s program experience, the current trend in education is all about self-teaching, small group projects and collaboration (I detest this word).  Her description of every single class she took for her MBA made my skin crawl, so I guess I probably won’t be going back to school in my retirement.  I’ll have to remain self-taught in the areas that appeal to me.  I’m still doing my online Italian class; I’m almost at 900 days straight.  I’m still working my way through biographies of the English monarchs as well as the American presidents.  Banned books are high on my list of interests as well as reading on Black Lives Matter.  Science is also a love of mine although I would say I have a broad science curiosity  as opposed to a deep curiosity. 

If I were to take any classes, my first choice would be anything taught by Tyson; it’s possible he could do wonders from my understanding of physics.  Add a course covering the history plays of Shakespeare.  I’d like an economics class that specializes in the real world and does not discuss guns or butter.  Literature courses of just about any kind.  No math (I got through trigonometry by the skin of my teeth) and no classes where anything has to be cut up!  

What were your favorite and least favorite classes in school?   

Crop Art Budgers

One of the things that Steve and I had in common was our love of crop art.  I’m not dissin’ other kinds of art, but crop art is just amazing.  Seeing how crop artists can blend grains and seeds to make beautiful works wows me every year.

Normally I visit the crop art on one of my alone days at the Fair but this year YA consented to go with me.  For those of you who haven’t seen the crop art at the Minnesota State Fair, the exhibit is along the far wall of the farm crop room in the Agriculture building.  Because everyone likes to look at every piece of art on the wall and table, there is almost always a line.  If you squeeze through, you can stand behind everyone else as they peruse the art.  Unfortunately most of the folks who squeeze through then push their way to the front which makes the wait for those in line even longer.  Why people will stand in line politely (more or less) for a slice of pickle pizza or a pronto pup, but they can’t bring themselves to wait for crop art, I don’t know.  Maybe if we called is crop art on a stick…

I’ve waited in line every year and experienced this phenomena over and over again.  I don’t like it, but I can’t see that it’s something I can fix.  YA had no such compunction.  When she noticed people trying to bypass the line, she stepped next to me (instead of in front of me), blocking the bypass.  Then she turned her back to the oncoming traffic  – two folks actually tried to get around her – she was immovable.  I was considering that she was taking Minnesota passive/aggressive to new heights when she said, in a voice just loud enough “crop art budgers”.   I think she may have just taken the title “Queen of Passive/Aggressive” from my mom!  From now on whenever I see somebody cut in line, I’ll be thinking “crop art budger”!

Anyway, the header photo is a red ribbon winner this year but I know that Steve would think the same as I do… it’s a blue ribbon winner in our eyes.

Did you ever glue macaroni to construction paper as a kid?

Henry?

I like to read the historical events that happened on particular days, and one of today’s I found very silly indeed.

On this day in 1889, the Second International Electrical Congress adopted the joule as a unit of energy, after James Joule, the watt as a unit of power, after James Watt, and the quadrant as a unit of electrical inductance. Inductance is the tendency of an electrical conductor to oppose a change in the electric current flowing through it. The flow of electric current creates a magnetic field around the conductor.  What I found so silly is that the name “quadrant” was later changed to henry. The henry (symbolized H) is the Standard International unit of inductance . One henry is the equivalent of one kilogram meter squared per second squared per ampere squared (kg m 2 s -2 A -2 ).

Henry? Why not Flora or Sylvester? This got me started renaming things. “Yep, husband drove 90 Biancas to Bismarck last night. ” Or “I lost 10 Elliots with my new diet.”

Come up with some silly names for units of measurement.

Drilling

Based on my junk mail the last few months, I should now be the proud winner of at least 300 Makita Drills.  I don’t open these junk emails but I do see the subject lines and the first few words of the messages; there are at least 2 a day.  Occasionally it’s another kind of drill or a barbeque grill but for some reason the Makita just keeps showing up.  If other folks are getting all these emails, then Makita would be bankrupt from all the giveaways.

I was thinking that if I actually accepted all these drills, I could open a drill store of my own and make a small killing.  If my junk emails are any indication, I could probably get a cheap storefront for my new business at Camp LeJeune!

What would you like to win this week?

The Old Stuff

As I’m counting down my last days at work, I’ve tackled a few projects that have to be put to bed before I’m gone.

One of these projects is, as I refer to it, “the old stuff”.  At my company, we back up our systems every night but GETTING to that information, if you need it, is cumbersome at best and impossible at worst.  You’d be surprised how often you might want to access information from an old program so about 25 years ago, we (or more accurately, I) started downloading our programs onto floppy disk.  You remember those, right?

Then after a few years, as we were changing technology, as I did the annual download, I started downloading to diskette.

You know where this is going… we eventually moved to CDs.  This annual download was accompanied by an updated spreadsheet of what programs were on which CD as well as name of client, location, date, etc.   I was the keeper of the spreadsheet but we had paper copies sorted by either client or location, since those were the two most needed search criteria.

Fast forward through another technology change (which meant you had to use a portable CD reader to use the CDs), a fire in our building (which destroyed the paper files), pandemic (during which nobody was in the building to get to the CDs), data migration to a cloud based system during my furlough (which despite assurances to the contrary, caused the loss of about half my desktop files, including the spreadsheet).   

Bottom line is that for the past 18 months, I’ve had two boxes full of unusable CDs under my desk.  Nobody has asked about them since I got back from furlough.  Even if they did, without the spreadsheet, finding any data would be nie on impossible.  And nobody knows where the portable reader is anyway.   Rather than asking any more about it, I just informed my boss last week that I was dumping them.  Luckily we have CD/DVD recycling at my company AND I personally have a use for the plastic cases that many of them were stored in.  Took me about an hour to separate the CDs from the cases and/or sleeves (header photo).  Broke two fingernails.  And all the while I was thinking about how the technology changed to the point where the data was lost to us.   

And it’s changing fast; YA doesn’t even know what a floppy disk is!

What bit of technology would you not like to do without? 

I Missed It

Boris Johnson resigned?  When the heck did that happen?

I know I’m not thrilled reading the news these days but I do check in every few days.  Yesterday I saw a couple of things on Facebook that drove me to CNN.  Lots of news about the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s assassination but nothing about Boris.  So I thought I’d check out BBC.com.  Absolutely nothing.  Thinking it was a fool’s errand, I just typed “Boris Johnson” into Google and finally found the news.  Seems as if four days later, it isn’t a headline any longer.  Like you shouldn’t blink or you’ll miss big chunks of what’s happening in the world.

The year after I graduated from high school, I spent 8 weeks living with a family in Mexico (their 2 daughters had spent the summer with us the year before).  Back then – yes, when dinosaurs roamed the planet – no BBC.com, no CNN.com, no streaming.  Just the daily newspaper, which in that corner of Mexico really did not carry any international news at all.  I felt a little cut off from the rest of the world while I was there – I’m assuming it’s how those bio-dome folks must have felt.

I came home from Mexico on a bus through Nogales to Albuquerque – stayed in a hotel one night and then flew home the next day.  That morning in Albuquerque I took a long walk and before returning to the hotel, I stopped at the corner drugstore and bought copies of several news magazines (Time, US News & World Report, Newsweek, even the Atlantic Monthly).

Apparently while I was in Mexico, there was a problem between Greece, Turkey and Cyprus.  Despite having the top news magazines of the day in my hands, I couldn’t really figure out what had happened.  If you don’t read the first news stories, it’s hard to “catch up”.  To this day, I’m not really 100% sure exactly how it all played out although I know that Cyprus is divided by a Green Line with the Greeks in the south and the Turkish in the north. 

I’m a little worried that this is how it will be for me and Boris Johnson.  I’ve found a few op eds and I THINK I’ve got it down, but am still a little surprised at how fast the story came and then went!

Anything gone missing in your world this week?

Jury Duty

Well, it has happened again. It seems that every other year I am called for jury duty, and I received another letter from the Clerk of Court while I was in Minnesota, telling me I am yet again in the pool of potential jurors for the Southwest District Court for the month of July.

I have never actually been seated on a jury panel. I haven’t even had to go to the court house while they choose jurors for cases, as the cases seem to be settled before the date of the hearing. I also can’t imagine any attorney would want me on a jury, especially if it is a criminal case. It is really hard in a small community to serve on a jury if one is a health care professional. If asked if I know a defendant, I have to say “I am prohibited by State and Federal law from answering that question unless ordered to do so by the court” if I know the person from the work at my agency. That statement is, of course, a tip off that I know them from my work, and everyone in town knows where I work, but that is what our legal department has told us to say.

I expect the same thing will happen this July, and I will wait for a letter from the Clerk of Court telling me that, yet again, I won’t be called for a jury panel in July and that I am still in the pool of potential jurors for the next round of cases if my name is picked at random. That is another problem living in a sparsely populated area-there really is a limited number of people to do things, so the chances of being picked for these typed of things are high.

Would you want to be a judge, a defense attorney, or a prosecutor? What are your favorite movies or books involving court hearings or lawyers?

Reinforcement Schedule

The friend with whom I am staying in Howard Lake has a downstairs apartment. It reminds me of being in the lower level of a split level house. There are some nice, large windows in every room. Despite that, her cell phone reception is terrible, and she has no wifi. I rely on the unlimited data plan I have on my phone for it to function, but service is intermittent and I often have to go outside to get emails and phone calls.

Sometimes, in the morning as I sit in her living room, I have no difficulty sending and receiving texts and calls. Then, out of nowhere, I have to move really close to the windows for it to work. At other times, I have good reception between the sofa and the kitchen. Then, inexplicably, that area doesn’t work, either, but holding the phone high above my head helps, sometimes.

I realized the other day how silly I must look using my phone as I wave my arms and move around and outside the apartment, and it dawned on me that my phone has me on a variable-ratio reinforcement schedule, like BF Skinner demonstrated using pigeons in the 1960’s. Pigeons were taught to press a metal bar to get food pellets, and were then subjected to random reinforcement, in which food was delivered randomly, and there was no way for the birds to figure out what they had to do to get the food. They tried their hardest, though, developing odd behaviors they thought were associated with food delivery. Some developed odd head movements. Others turned around three times, because that is what they were doing when the food was delivered. Skinner used this research to explain the development of superstitious beliefs and behaviors, as well as gambling addiction.

I leave for home tomorrow, and there I know I can feel more in control than I do here. Besides, my shoulder is getting sore holding my phone above my head so much.

What motivates you? Do you have any superstitions or know anyone who is superstitious? Any technology horror stories?

My Star Wars Name Is…..

I’m a Star Wars Fan.  Not a rabid fan and I have to admit that I haven’t even seen the last few movies because they haven’t come around for free yet.  But I will always remember when Star Wars IV came out in 1977.   I went to the first night it opened at The Grand Theatre in Northfield; I hadn’t heard anything about it but some other friends were going so I went along for the fun.  When the curtains pulled back and the screen filled with stars and the music blared out, I felt as if somehow my life had changed.

Night 2, Night 3 and Night 4 found me at The Grand again, each night with a different group of friends.  I was a bit like a CGI proselytizer – trying to get as many people as I knew to see and fall for the new special effects that were on the screen. By Night 5, my friends were starting to give me grief, so my streak ended. (There have been only two other movies that got the Night 1, Night 2, Night 3, Night 4 treatment – Blazing Saddles and Princess Bride. Oddly enough Blazing Saddles was also at The Grand.)

Over the years I’ve watched IV, V and VI over and over again. The others not as much. I’ve never been to a convention, although I’ve certainly thought about it. When May 4 began to be known as Star Wars Day, I noted it but didn’t go crazy over it. YA did give me a book a few years back on May 4, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope. Kind of my wheelhouse, right?

I do enjoy all the memes and puns that are associated with Star Wars – and there are A LOT of them. Here’s a new one I found a couple of weeks ago.

Q.  Why isn’t Leia married in A New Hope?

A.  She’s been looking for love in Alderaan places

Where is this going, you all ask? This is where it’s going. When I found the phrase “May the Horse be With Ewe” last week, I fell off my chair laughing.  Almost immediately I started thinking about making a card and ended up with the design you see above. On the inside of the card, in the Star Wars font (yes, there is such a thing), I do have “May The Horse Be With Ewe”.  I couldn’t help myself. So far a couple of folks who have received it have called and laughed with me.  I’m pretty sure that Nonny is not going to get the joke.  I’m not even sure if she has SEEN Star Wars.

Which Star Wars character do you like best?

What’s In a Name?

I was a rep for a stamping company for many years…. you know, one of the home party companies.  Of course, for most of my tenure, I only did workshops in my home for my dedicated following.  I wasn’t really into “growing my business”; I just wanted have fun with my stamping friends and get the company discount.

I have stamps and accessories from many companies but even though I’m not selling any longer, I still get excited when the annual catalog comes out.  The first day to order is today.  One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that the colors of ink/paper in the catalog aren’t always QUITE the same in person as they are in the book.  You wouldn’t think I would be too fussy about my ink colors (especially if you could see how many I already have).  But when you have a lot, you don’t want duplication.  If I’m going to get another pink pad or green pad, it needs to be a different shade.  When I saw new colors called Polished Pink and Parakeet Party, I visited my rep (I signed up with her the day I resigned as a sales person) to see those colors in person.

Parakeet Party is a light but vibrant green but it occurs to me that the average person wouldn’t figure that out immediately.  And it made me think about some of the incredible names that stamp companies come up with for their colors.  Here are just a few… can you figure out what color they are by the name:

    • Coastal Cabana
    • Cadette
    • Alchemy
    • Mermaid

Of course a lot of them are more obvious:  Rich Razzleberry, Early Espresso, Bubblegum (just about ever company that does ink pads has one named this) and one of my favorites – Not Quite Navy.  I’m thinking that when they have meetings to talk about ink names, there must be alcohol involved!

What’s your favorite Crayola box?  8-pack?  24-pack?  64?  Living large with the Ultimate 152?  What about neons?  Or glitters?  Or confettis?