I Am A Tree

a hobo's song

I’ve been fascinated with space since I was a little kid. Growing up in the Sixties and early Seventies, I have very strong memories of the Apollo program, in particular. I remember when the Eagle landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong’s first steps on another world.

When we lived in Pittsburgh, once a year or so our folks would take us to the Buhl Planetarium, which is part of the Carnegie Science Center. I would sit there completely awed over the images shown and always wanted more. For years, one of my favorite possessions was a photo of a full moon snapped by the observatory. It hung on my wall as a reminder to keep looking up.

Some time in the mid-Seventies, we got a telescope. We were in West Hartford now, and even though we were in the suburbs of a city, you could see all sorts of beautiful things if you knew where to look. I remember the first time I spied through the lens the beautiful rings of Saturn. I didn’t have any maps of the sky at my disposal – I just pointed at every bright thing up there and looked. This is how I saw Venus, Mars, and Jupiter, as well. The Pleiades were also fun to look at, but those, at least, I knew where to find.

And the moon. Always the moon. I remember watching it through a lunar eclipse once in the late Seventies and being thrilled at what I was seeing. Even though I only took the telescope out a couple of times per year, it was worth it.

This love of space has stuck with me my entire life. I’m always looking up at night, seeing what’s up there. Last year (I think it was last year…) we saw the ISS soar over head one night, and the wonder of it all came flooding back. Now that there are rocket launches down the coast off Virginia, we actually saw one arc into the sky from our deck. The shuttle launch I saw from the front yard of my folks when they lived in Florida was another great moment.

My browser homepage for the web has been APOD - the Astronomy Picture of the Day – since at least since 1997 or so. Doesn’t matter what browser I’m using, that’s what the first tab set to use. I even collect those images that I love and save them for my wallpaper in Windows. At home I’m probably over 400 images, while work is currently around 50. People are always oohing and ahhing over my desktop.

One of my dreams is to eventually get another telescope. With the advent of sky mapping programs for phones and tablets, it’ll make it easier to find interesting things to view. That excites me greatly. For now, though, it’s APOD every day, at the very least, to keep the excitement alive,  and as always, I’ll be looking up.

I made one resolution for this year. It’s something that I’ve talked about for probably forty years, and dabbled a bit with when I was in junior high/high school.

I’m going to become a model railroader.

A few weeks back I ordered a diorama from Woodland Scenics, the premier scenic supply company for model railroading (and other kits). This one finally came last week and man, it’s going to be a fun one to build. I also ordered subscriptions to Classic Trains and Model Railroader (about the fifth time I’ve had one for MR) magazines. Somehow Kalmbach Publishing found me at the new house in Jersey – I may have had a subscription when we moved there which I let lapse. The deals for getting the subscriptions were ridiculously good, too, so it didn’t take much arm-twisting.

Part of the impetus – for me, at least – for working last weekend on the basement was so I can find a place to build a small layout. I’m thinking HO scale, to make it easier on my eyes and hands when it comes to working with tiny parts. N would allow me to have more railroading per square foot, but I think I’ll be happy with a small industrial-setting HO layout.

Lunch times are often spent watching videos on YouTube. The local IT manager got bitten by the bug last year and he’s building an N-scale passenger layout in his apartment uptown. He sits across from me and most days we spend some time chatting about this and that.

It’s happening. Slowly, but surely, it’s happening.

I’m pleased.

 

…that people – even those who should know better – come to a complete stop at either the top or bottom of an escalator, especially in busy locations? Are you just that clueless? Do you not realize that there’s a hundred others behind you who can’t stop the impending collisions?

I saw this happen at the Port Authority this morning. The Port happens to be the single busiest bus terminal in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people go through it every day, and yet, someone is always screwing it up. Today, someone pretty much walked two feet after the end of the trip down and stopped to adjust their hat and ended up causing about a half-dozen people to collide with one another while they scrambled to not hit her.

And she was clueless about what she did.

I was halfway down when it unfolded in front of me. Fortunately no one was hurt, but the woman who caused it just glared at people who bitched at her — and still didn’t move. For all I know, she’s still there now, continuing to fuck up everyone’s day. She hadn’t moved when I finally passed her and shot her a look.

So here’s the thing, people: Don’t get so wrapped up in your own little bubble that when it comes to things like this, you end up looking like a dumb-ass. Don’t get off the right side of the escalator and immediately cut left across the person next to you – they may not be able to stop. Don’t walk directly in front of any escalators that have people on them heading in your direction.

This is true for anywhere in the world that an escalator may exist.

…winter meant snow that started falling in December and pretty much stuck on the ground until March or so. We would have flurries every couple of days, a light storm every week or so adding a couple of inches to the base, and then a few week period where we would see several big storms come cycling through.

Now it may be I’m viewing the past through snow-tinted glasses, but I liked winter then. I still do, actually, except for the bloody cold we’ve had this year. The snow/completely melt/snow/completely melt loop is tiresome. This is why I enjoyed the past few days – we had snow, and then flurries, and then snow again. There’s a certain type of magic I associate with mid-to-late afternoon skies the color of a deepening grey thanks to snow-swollen clouds, that I felt again, especially Saturday and yesterday.

I flashed back to the winter of ’78-’79, when I was a junior in high school. I remember going up to the Res (the West Hartford Reservoir) one snowy afternoon with some friends.  While we were hanging out on a cliff about fifty feet above one of the lakes, snow quietly began falling. We had a cassette recorder with us, and I remember someone put in Dan Fogelberg’s Nether Lands, and we sat there listening to the beautiful title track while the world around us dissolved from grey to white and finally to deep grey as night fell. It’s a memory that’s stayed with me ever since then – one of those perfect moments when everything comes together.

I like that. I hope we get more of that this year, and not just more of this ridiculous polar invasion about to plant itself on top of us.

And just to enhance this post, here’s the song, Nether Lands, so you can imagine yourself sitting high above a lake with the snow falling on a wintry day.

I make no attempts at hiding my love of gaming in pretty much any form. Hell, this blog was once called The Gamer’s Nook. Board games, role-playing games, computer games (both standalone and online), it’s all the same great feast for me. I’ve been playing games my entire life.

Back in 1998, a new PC game company named BioWare came on the scene with the game-changing Baldur’s Gate and a year or so later, Baldur’s Gate II, along with their expansions. Based on Second Edition AD&D from TSR, these games were EPIC, telling a story of the death of the God of Murder and the battle of his off-spring to take up his mantle as the new God of Murder. Fun stuff is an understatement. I played and replayed BGII, in particular, for years after its release.

A few years back, there were rumblings of an Enhanced Edition for each game being released, but I lost track of it from time to time. Over the holidays, after having chosen the avatar of Minsc (the greatest non-player character, ever, in the history of computer games, and one of the NPCs from the games) for Facebook, Kim used Imoen (another important character) as hers.

And then, we both decided to download the newly refurbished game and dove into the Bhaalspawn story as it begins in the original game.

Oh, what fun this is. Sure, it’s dated in many ways, but this is the game that launched not only a company – BioWare – but defined how the entire computer RPG would evolve for the next fifteen-plus years. There would be no Mass Effect, Dragon Age, or modern Elder Scrolls games without Baldur’s Gate.

You want epic? This is it. You want fun characters? This has them. You want old school D&D? Look no further. Once I’ve completed this game, I’ll be quickly moving to BGII; there’s nothing like the nostalgia of old friends, even digital ones.

As to the title of this post, it’s a quote of Minsc’s. The poor guy is brain-damaged and carries a space hamster named “Boo” around with him. Really. It’s awesome.

“The deeper problem is simply that Christie appears to be genuinely corrupt on a scale that is rare for a modern top-tier presidential candidate.” – From the article linked below.

Anyone who has paid attention over the past few days knows that New Jersey governor Chris Christie has a wee-bit of a problem on his hands. “Bridgegate” as it’s being called* is just the beginning. There are now federal investigations into several things, and it’s only a matter of time before something comes out that really implicates him.

How do I know this? I’ve lived in the Tri-State area for going on twenty-four years. In that time, I’ve seen a parade of corruption in state politics both in New York and New Jersey that has left me a complete cynic about it all.

Christie makes most of that look tame in comparison. His bullying is legendary, and now it’s finally coming home to roost. I don’t believe for a minute that he had no idea what was happening – someone with as big an ego as his would never let his staff do this sort of thing on their own. He’s a control-freak. Probably every governor is, if you think about it.

It’s also much more than simple retaliation against a local mayor. This is about punishing the New Jersey Democrats for daring to refuse to seat any of his judicial choices after he refused to renew Jersey’s only high court black justice for no reason other than he didn’t want to – something that has never happened before in the state’s history.

I suspect we’re only at the beginning of what will likely become the end of Christie’s political ambitions.

One can only hope that’s true.

*Can we please stop adding the word “-gate” at the end of every scandal?

via Christie Presidential Campaign Now Even Deader — Daily Intelligencer.

My new crown popped out Saturday night after we got home from an evening of food and beer with Jay. We were noshing on some cheese and with no warning at all, I felt the crown suddenly come loose and rolling around in my mouth.

Disconcerting, for certain.

Rewinding a bit, let me fill in the details. As many folks know, my mouth has been an ongoing war against bad teeth for decades. I’m convinced my mom took some weird medicine that she was told was vitamins when I was in utero. My sister, Lorraine, has had problems her whole life, too. Over the past fifteen or so years, I’ve had seven root canals, I believe, to fix the damage. The last one was several years ago, but when we moved from the Bronx to Jersey, I left my dentist, as I was not going to commute an hour across the Tappan Zee Bridge just because I liked him. The problem was, the crown was never done for that root canal.

Back in November, Kim found a dentist who is probably a ten minute walk from our house, if that. He’s a really nice guy, and so I’ve been two times now – once for a cleaning, and then the crown work. Last time, they fit the new crown on and used temporary cement to tide me over until the next visit. He told me to use the tooth as I always did, with no restrictions.

Naturally, I did. Crown, meet cheese. Oops.

Good thing I didn’t swallow it.

I go back tomorrow night for the final cementing of the crown, which was already scheduled. Good timing from where I sit. I have this huge gap now in the upper right side of my mouth, in the back, where just the nub of the tooth remains from the root canal and crown prep.

Naturally, I can’t stop running my tongue over it, which isn’t helping matters. It doesn’t hurt (much – there’s a dull throb today), but… yeah. Not something you want to spend a few days with, trust me.

Oh, and Happy New Year. Only took me thirteen days into the year to blog again.

Last Friday saw the end of an era as I found my way back from the wilderness that is the Blackberry. I’ve documented here on the blog my downward turn with the company and their devices, and I’ve been chomping at the bit to get a modern phone that actually, you know, did things besides turning into a brick several times a day.

We went to the Verizon store on Route 4 in Paramus and after an hour or so spent looking at various phones (iPhones, Samsungs and more), I settled on this beauty:

HTC-ONE-022edit

That’s a HTC One, and man, it’s love at first sight. I think Kim’s been highly amused as I discover functions that have been common on phones for years but which I never had access to due to my Blackberry. It does everything, and the O/S is smooth as hell, nothing freezes (yet), and the camera is pretty freaking awesome at eight megapixels.  I even got an amazing deal on a Mophie battery pack case which cost me all of twenty-five dollars (normally about one hundred bucks).

I’m finally posting photos on Instagram, too – if you’re there, friend me (currently I’m “scottbnj” but that may change…too close to “bj”).

Ahh, modern phones. Who knew?