Category Archives: Life

One Hundred Forty

Writing is difficult. Especially good writing. It takes time and mental effort timages-2o take an idea, broaden it into a theme, imagine it as a story—a coherent flow of thought expressing the idea from introduction through conclusion—then put that story into words. Not easily done. That explains why I greatly admire authors, poets, playwrights, screenwriters, journalists, essayists who are accomplished wordsmiths—those writers who always seem to find the right word, the right style, the right phrase, and the right voice to express a thought or emotion and intricately weave them together to create story.

Twitter (actually, twttr.com, at the time) arrived almost a decade ago (Can you believe it?) on July 13, 2006. Its distinguishing characteristic as an online social networking service (well, aside from introducing hashtags to the world) is its 140-character limit for online twittermessages. The limit came from Twitter’s original objective to let a person send a status message, as an SMS text message on a mobile phone, that could then be broadcast to a group. The SMS architecture constrained the length of the messages. The initial concept of sending status evolved into the broader perception that the service would be much more valuable as a way to express any spur-of-the-moment thought as a short burst of information. Brevity and immediacy were the keys. Thus, the 140-character limit has continued as a centerpiece of Twitter even though it’s not required anymore by text messaging services—it underlies Twitter’s unique purpose as a facilitator for disseminating short, quick capsules of information.

One reason for Twitter’s proliferation (more than 300 million active users) is that the 140-character limitation eases the writing process.SteveMartinToGo The mental calisthenics are gone—no more taking an idea, broadening it to a theme, imagining a coherent flow of thought, and creating story. Now it only takes an Internet link, a Twitter account, and a keypad to produce stream-of-consciousness missives on Twitter—something that appeals to many. Additionally, the audience is huge which provides even greater incentive for anyone to produce a continuous flow of 140-character thoughts.

Much has been written about the advantages and disadvantages of a 140-character world by people much more knowledgeable about the subject than I am [see, for instance, 1, 2345]. So, I won’t even try to add anything to those ideas. Instead, as a way to have some fun and as a bit of a mind game I began to think about some famous historical phrases and writings and how they would change if truncated to the Twitter 140. It became an entertaining exercise.


Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s truncated Sonnet 43:

How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For

It ends rather suddenly and misses the beautiful conclusion:

...I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this
continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the propo

We miss the whole proposition that “all men are created equal,” and, later, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Shakespeare’s Hamlet soliloquy:

To be, or not to be—that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take

The 140-character excerpt does include the six most famous words uttered by Hamlet as he began his soliloquy, but it certainly misses the depths of Hamlet’s introspective contemplations about life and death.

Casablanca

Rick Blaine’s (Humphrey Bogart’s) farewell speech to Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman):

Last night we said a great many things. You said I was to do the thinking
for both of us. Well, I’ve done a lot of it since then, and it

Unfortunately, the 140 truncation removes “We’ll always have Paris.” and “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.” The emotion is extinguished.

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of
wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief,

The stop at 140 characters drops most of the memorable 617-character opening sentence to the Dickens’ classic.

The Bible, Genesis 1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth
was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep,

This hardly scratches the surface of what’s to come.

Abbott & Costello, “Who’s on First”

Abbott: Strange as it may seem, they give ball players nowadays very
peculiar names.

Costello: Funny names?

Abbott: Nicknames, nicknames.

Bud Abbott’s warnings to his friend Lou Costello, who is considering a baseball career, never even get to describing first baseman Who, second baseman What, third baseman I Don’t Know in this much-shortened version of an American classic comedy sketch.

Cheech & Chong, “Dave”

Speaking of classic comedy sketches, there’s this well-known stoner skit from Cheech & Chong. Unfortunately, it does not include the legendary, “Dave’s not here, man.”

“It’s, it’s Dave, man, will you open up? I got the stuff with me.”

“Who?”

“Dave, man. Open up.”

“Dave?”

“Ya, Dave,

“Over the Rainbow,” by Harold Arlen & E.Y. Harburg

Dorothy would have never returned from Oz with this rendition of the song.

Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high
There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby

Somewhere, over the rainbow, skies are blue
And

The examples are endless. Although, ironically, I noticed that the majority of my comments about the 140-character excerpts could easily be reduced to something less than 140 characters. Maybe there is something to this easy, quick way to write after all. 🙂

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World Record Fattest Hummingbird

Despite our late snows and cold weather…

SnowOnBudsSnowOnTulips

[Aside: For the record, April 2013, was Denver’s fifth coldest April since observations began in 1873. The average temperature was 5.7°F (3.2°C) below normal. 20.4 inches (52 cm) of snow fell during the month making it the eleventh snowiest April on record. Boulder, a city about 30 mi (48 km) to the northwest of Denver and closer to the foothills of the Rockies, had its snowiest April ever with more than 4 ft (122 cm) of snow measured during the month.]

…and, with the last, late-season snowstorm coming on May 1, the hummingbirds still managed to return to the mountains about on schedule this year, arriving during the last week of April. They were hungry after their long migratory flight, so the hummingbird feeder was deployed outside as soon as the first trill of hummingbird wings was heard near the house. Surprisingly, especially for so early in the season, I noticed the level in the feeder dropped very quickly in the first few days after I put it outside. I surmised that we had very hungry birds this year or, maybe, there were many more hummingbirds in the area using our feeder than I had seen.

Then, last weekend, the real explanation for the rapid consumption of hummingbird nectar appeared at the feeder:

BullocksOriole

That’s a Bullock’s Oriole, and I’m no ornithologist (IANAO 🙂 ), but it, apparently, likes sweetened water and it has a beak small enough to fit into a hummingbird feeder. It had a “field day” taking long gulps out of the feeder, despite the cackling and diving of the hummingbirds as they tried to scare it away from their food source. Needless to say, until the wildflowers start blooming, there will probably be an ongoing confrontation between the oriole (or orioles) and the hummingbirds.

An Appreciative Cat

Ever since I learned about the Cloud Appreciation Society (CAS) a few years ago, I became an instant fan and, as quickly as international post would allow, I became a life-long member.  Not only does the society have a wonderful collection of cloud pictures and videos from its 32,000+ members (not to mention cloud music, art, and poetry), but they (we) also encourage learning about clouds through a mix of solid science and a bit of whimsy.  After all, learning while laughing definitely speeds learning, no matter what the subject—especially, if it is about something as ephemeral as clouds.

Given my enthusiasm for the Society, it’s no big surprise that I have managed to convince a few wise members of my friends and family clan to appreciate clouds with me and join the CAS.  There is at least one very important member of the family, though, who I missed.  And, she made it quite obvious to me today that she, too, has as strong an appreciation for clouds as anyone else.  Meet Olive, the cloud-spotter feline of the household:

2013May08_CloudCat

Just what has attracted her attention, you ask?  It is a picture of one of several thunderstorms which moved over the Boulder, Denver, and Colorado Springs metro areas today.  I took the thunderstorm picture earlier in the day thinking it would be a nice contrast to the winter weather pictures I took last week during our late-season snowfall (Last week was winter, this week is spring; extrapolation predicts summer soon).  While cropping the image on the computer, Olive the cloud-spotter feline spotted it.  She was mesmerized, quite unusual for her capricious personality.  In fact, she was mesmerized to the point where she remained still long enough for this, and a few other, cute cat pictures.  To keep her purring, I promised to remit her lifetime membership fee for the Cloud Appreciation Society as soon as possible.   They already have a dog who is a member, but I think Olive would be the first cat.

To complete the story, here’s the thunderstorm image that so intrigued Olive:

Wide-angle view of approaching thunderstorm; dark clouds in foreground, streaks of rain in background

Approaching thunderstorm

With this storm and the showers that followed it, we received about 0.5 inch (12 mm) of rain today.  Any rain (or snow, for that matter) this spring is a big help for us because we are still trying to get out of long-term drought.

For a minute there, I lost myself…

Excerpt from an email yesterday (protecting innocence with pseudonyms):

“John, Mary, and myself are all out on vacation Wed-Fri.”

Arrrrrrrrrgggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Fingernails on the chalkboard,
A sharp knife along the surface of a ridged metal bottle,
A steel fork scraping along a glass.1

Myself needed this rant.

Sigh…
but I do feel better now.


1 see “Screech! Sounds which are worse than nails on a chalkboard”

Today’s Stream of Consciousness

Today, I’m making my first attempt to create a blog entry on my iPad using the much-loveblogsy_icond blogsy app. The result: So far, so good. Intuitive (I haven’t looked at their tutorial videos yet), easy to use, designed for iPad’s touch-n-swipe interface. And, even better, a lot less frustrating compared to my initial experience with the WordPress app (which is fine for simple stuff, but is not very feature-rich…although the price is right!) [Update, January 28, 2016: Blogsy is no longer with us. Sigh.]

And, now for the abrupt change of subject (befitting the stream of consciousness)—

As the 11-year solar sunspot cycle continues to heat up…

…the effects of another impressive solar flare are headed towards Earth in the next 24 sxi_20120306_235815165_ba_15hours. Updates about expected impacts on radio transmissions, auroral activity, etc. are issued by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center and posted here. It doesn’t look like the auroral activity will be seen this far south (40°N), but it really doesn’t matter because we’ll be covered in clouds through tonight.

Temperature at KDEN, past 2 days

And, just why is it so cloudy in Colorado? Because of a cold front which moved rapidly down the Front Range of the central Rockies last night. We went from 73°F yesterday (just 2°F shy of the record high temperature for March 6) to a current temperature of 27°F—a 45°F drop!

Hmmm…just ran across an oddity in blogsy. I wanted to use the degree symbol (HTML code: ° or °, but when I went into the HTML editor side of blogsy and put in the code, then returned to the rich text editor side (with a real-time preview of the blog entry), no degree symbol…just the actual HTML code is shown. We’ll see what happens after I post this to the WordPress site…
Update after my post: While blogsy does not show the degree symbol in its rich text editor, the degree symbol shows up just fine (as I had hoped) on the WordPress site. Good. Blogsy passes the test!

Griffiths Island: Lightstations and Stratocumulus

After a bit of effort scanning through my digital photo library, I found a nice image to use as the banner for this blog.  Then, I used Apple’s Keynote software to resize it and add two critical pieces: the requisite blog title and all-important one-line description of what this blog might contain.  Griffiths Island LightstationMy banner picture is of the Griffiths Island Lightstation (or Lighthouse) in Port Fairy on the southern coast of Australia.  Port Fairy is at the western end of “The Great Ocean Road,” the beautiful ocean-hugging route in Victoria, Australia, from Melbourne west towards Mount Gambier.  This lighstation is one of more than 350 in Australia, many of which have quite interesting histories and are open to the public.  They are well worth the visit if you happen to find yourself in Australia with a penchant for picture-taking or want to absorb some local history.

By using a lighthouse picture for a banner, I’ve managed to knock off several birds with the one proverbial stone: the seascape/lighthouse picture fits nicely into the banner-required 9×2 aspect ratio, its blue hues blend harmoniously with the blog’s thematic colors, it connotes all sorts of deep meanings about potential topics for this blog (think lighthouse metaphor :)), and, finally, it presents a nice depiction of the typical stratocumulus layer that often hugs the Australian south shore.  All in all, the banner pic has much going for it—we’ll see how long it lasts. 🙂

Cool Cat

In the midst of evaluating the seemingly innumerable WordPress themes to discover the “one perfect theme for me,” I realized I needed a post with an embedded image which I could use to test the look of various themes.  Given the plethora of photos in my library, it was fairly easy to find one to use.  But, rather than choosing just any picture, I went for one showing one of my all-time favorite cats—Cleo*, who is now in kitty heaven.  He was one cool cat and is perfect for a test image.

Cleo, the Cool Kitty

*Cleo: Originally thought to be a little female feline when adopted as a tiny, but cute kitten, Cleo was first named Cleopatra because of the dark markings around “her” eyes.  When it was later discovered that she was a he, Cleopatra became Cleo and he lived a long, happy life highlighted by his distinctive name.

An October Morning

A classic for a colorful month…
OctoberMorningthumb

October
by Robert Frost
O HUSHED October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

Ref:
Frost, Robert.  A Boy’s Will.  New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1915.


Bike to Work Day…from 11 Different Wi-Fi Hotspots

Last Wednesday (25 June) for the 11th year in a row (yes, that’s right—it’s been 11 years!) I had the pleasure of participating in the Denver Area Bike to Work Day sponsored by the Denver Regional Council of Governments.  In order to keep it interesting—after all, there’s nothing worse than a boring 37-mile bike ride to get to work—I’ve tried to look for new and different ways to spruce up the event for me every year, like searching out the free LaMar’s donuts, or capturing the event as a photo essay from ground level.

Since last year’s Bike to Work Day, I have become a full-time work-from-home, or “Sun Open Work,” employee. [An aside: Sun calls its flexible work program, “Open Work.”  It is one of the better programs of its kind in the industry and makes it much easier for me to work with my globally-dispersed team.  Basically, as long as I have network access and a phone, I can work anytime, anywhere.]  Given my change of status—now as a WFHer—which means I did not have to go all the way to Sun’s Broomfield, CO campus on Bike to Work Day, I, instead, decided upon more of an Open Work alternative.  Rather than biking to my basement office (Rich Brown beat me to that idea.  See the photo in his “Life as a Telecommuter, Part 1” blog entry), I decided upon a slightly more ambitious adventure.  Since all I needed was a network link and since this was to be my 11th Bike to Work Day, the combination naturally leads to: “Bike to Work Day from 11 Different Wi-Fi Hotspots.”  Crazy?  Well…

To prepare, I found the locations of various restaurants, coffee shops, and bookstores in the area that I knew had free Wi-Fi.  The Panera Bread chain was first on my list because they are seemingly everywhere and they have a good, reliable Wi-Fi setup.  Similar to Panera, next on my list was the Paradise Bakery and Cafe chain.  Not as ubiquitous as Panera, still they have several locations here in the Denver area and they, too, have free Wi-Fi.  For coffee shops, I went with Peaberry Coffee—a local chain with several stores in the south Denver area where I WFH.  Finally, there was the Tattered Cover—Denver’s premier independent book-seller.

After superimposing the locations of the Paneras, Paradises, Peaberrys, and Tattered Covers on a Denver Area Bicycle Route map, I created a more-or-less circular route. I decided to ride east from my home office through the communities south of Denver, turn north through the Denver Technology Center (the area to the southeast of Denver), work my way into the city limits of Denver along the Cherry Creek bikeway, then finally head back home down the South Platte River bike trail.

I mapped out a route that looked like this:

The blue pushpins mark the Wi-Fi hotspots I hoped to visit.  The blue line signifies my route.  I started at the Panera at Aspen Grove in Littleton (the blue pushpin on the southwest side of the map), then traversed the marked locations cyclonically (or counter-clockwise here in the Northern Hemisphere) due east through Highlands Ranch (along the bottom of the map) then up to Tattered Cover’s main store on Colfax Avenue in Denver (at the top of the map) before returning down the South Platte River (the western side of the map) and back home.

And just what did these hotspots look like?  Well, I took a digital picture of each as I went along.  The façades follow:

B2WD Stop #1

Stop #1: Panera Bread, Littleton (Aspen Grove)

B2WD Stop #2

Stop #2: Tattered Cover Bookstore, Highlands Ranch

B2WD Stop #2.5

Stop #2.5: Thundershowers Developing to the West, Highlands Ranch

B2WD Stop #3

Stop #3: Panera Bread, Highlands Ranch

B2WD Stop #4

Stop #4: Panera Bread, Highlands Ranch (near Park Meadows)—with a dry thunderstorm overhead

B2WD Stop #5

Stop #5: Peaberry Coffee (north of Park Meadows)

B2WD Stop #6

Stop #6: Peaberry Coffee, Greenwood Village

B2WD Stop #7

Stop #7: Panera Bread, Greenwood Village (with a loud truck out front)

B2WD Stop #8

Stop #8: Panera Bread, Denver Tech Center

B2WD Stop #9

Stop #9: Paradise Bakery and Cafe, Cherry Creek North

B2WD Stop #10

Stop #10: Panera Bread, Cherry Creek North

B2WD Stop #11

Stop #11: Tattered Cover Bookstore, Main Store, Colfax Ave., Denver

In the end, I managed to travel a total of 57.5 miles, a bit less than what a round-trip ride to Broomfield would have been for me.  The total ride time was about 4 hours.  However, with the various con-calls I attended at some stops, and email storms I responded to at other stops, my “Bike to Work Day from 11 Different Wi-Fi Hotspots” took about 12 hours to accomplish.  In addition, I learned a few things about the Wi-Fi services these establishments provide:

  • The Panera Bread Wi-Fi network was robust and reliable.  It worked well with a laptop running OpenSolaris (by far the slickest operating system on the planet), the current Vista incarnation of Microsoft Windows, and with iOS on an iPod Touch.
  • The Cherry Creek North merchants have set up and support a Wi-Fi network throughout the Cherry Creek North shopping district.  Like Panera’s network it seemed reliable and robust and I could connect to it with the devices and OSes I had.  Kudos to Cherry Creek North.
  • Peaberry Coffee’s Wi-Fi network did not work with my iPod Touch (the authentication software tried to pop up two windows from the browser, but the second pop-up always failed).  It did, however, work just fine from a laptop.  On the other hand, Peaberry’s had the best coffee on my trip and they had pretty decent burritos as well.
  • I didn’t actually use the Paradise Cafe network because I could link up nicely with the Cherry Creek North Wi-Fi when I was at the only Paradise Cafe I visited.
  • Tattered Cover’s Wi-Fi network is a bit flaky.  It seemed slower than the others I used on the trip and it dropped my connection more than once.  It connected with both the iPod Touch and my laptop.

Last, but never least, this year’s artwork on the t-shirt was colorful, modern, and, depending on your preference, either cutely stylish or stylishly cute.  I have added it to my ever-growing collection of B2WD T-Shirts.

Eleven years, eleven mostly successful Bike to Work days.  I’m thinking next year I’ll try really something different… 🙂

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