Around the World in 223 Days

So neitherĀ Phileas Fogg’s fictional feat, nor Michael Palin’s actual one, are in any danger of being eclipsed. But when Lindsay‘s flight lands in Boston later today she will have completed one whole trip around the world. We’ll count the high school trip to France, Spain, and Morocco, and her semester abroad in Uganda, as test flights, like the Mercury or Gemini projects were before the Apollo missions.

Except for eastern Canada and a week in Bermuda I have never been outside the United States. The moons of opportunity, capability, and inclination just haven’t come into alignment, but that hasn’t stopped us from experiencing some fascinating places vicariously. And at a safe distance from spiders.

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New Isn’t Always Better

Speaking of close shaves, I have been doing a lot of reading lately about a quintessentially masculine experience, shaving one’s face. Of course, being married and having three daughters I know that shaving in and of itself is not the sole province of men but, in general, shaving one’s beard is. I also know that not all men shave their beards so, if you fall into that camp, feel free to skip the rest of the post, read on with curiosity about those of us who do (most of the time), or read on and become a convert to the clean-shaven.

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A ‘Possum’s Tale

The only contact I had with opossums when I was a kid growing up in Maine was in books. Children’s books, Life Nature Library, and novels set in the American South. In recent years they have become increasingly common in southern Maine and make up almost as much roadkill as gray squirrels.

Combine the presence of opossums (including the dead one I found in one of our outbuildings) and milder winters (riding my motorcycle in January and February? in Maine?) and I see evidence of it in my personal experience. Evidence of what? Climate change, coming soon to a wildlife habitat near you.

Happy Birthday Commodore!

Thirty years ago I was seriously itching to get into the brave new world of personal computers. No longer content with commandeering terminals at the local college, no doubt keeping actual college students from getting work done, I pored over catalogs from Radio Shack, Sinclair, Apple, and Commodore. I put together dream systems with not one, but two (!) floppy drives, and in my wilder moments, a 5MB hard drive. And I wouldn’t just run the embedded BASIC (bleah!) but prove my real abilities as a budding computer nerd and run CP/M.

Apple IIs were around, my mother even had a TRS-80 Color Computer my parents had bought when she went back to school, and I couldn’t get my mitts on my own computer fast enough. It took me a good year to save up the $595 to get my own Commodore 64 when they came out. Initially I had to settle for a cassette tape drive to store and load data and programs (zzzz….), but gradually expanded my system to include the 1541 floppy drive and 1702 color monitor. I’d hit the big time!

I had a lot of fun with my Commodore 64, writing lengthy BASIC programs and tinkering with FORTH (though I never did really get to run CP/M or any other “real” operating system until I graduated to the IBM PC). I wrote programs in 6510 assembly language, ported a favorite Star Trek game from the college time-share system, used VisiCalc, played games, even used dialup online services like Dow Jones News/Retrieval (at 300 baud), and reached a pretty solid “intermediate” on the computer nerd scale. Then I graduated from college, went to work in a non-computer related (except to use them) occupation, and have been gradually left behind by younger, nerdier people.

Thirty years later I still consider myself an advanced user, but as a computer enthusiast, the Commodore 64 was really when I hit my peak. Looking over that last sentence it seems kind of sad, doesn’t it? It isn’t really, because, like a lot of people, I simply moved on to other things.

I wonder if I still have that old 64 in the attic somewhere….?

Post #328

Among the things I planned to do over my little holiday vacation, I managed to do at least one of them today, which was camera shopping with our middle daughter. Chelsea and I share several interests, including photography. She has had a succession of film and digital point-and-shoot cameras and had the use of a Canon dSLR for the two years she was high school yearbook editor. Looking ahead to a semester abroad in Ireland or Scotland next fall, she wanted to find something more capable and have time to learn how to use it.

Buying another point-and-shoot, though technology has continued to improve, would have been a lateral move – a better version of what she already had (by better, I mean faster, and better image quality). Digital SLRs are still pricey, especially for a college student who’s been saving up. Even the mini-dSLRs or compact system cameras can still be a little hefty on the budget, but there are many good “bridge” or advanced point-and-shoots out there.

I have never been an early adopter of technology and finally gave in to digital in 2004 (though I still have my 1982 Minolta XG-M). My choice then was the Fujifilm FinePix S5000. It’s been a good camera to make the transition from film to digital, but it’s also getting a little old. And it’s always been slow. Slow to boot, slow to shoot. Just. Plain. Slow. Shutter lag, the bane of digital cameras everywhere, was less on the S5000 than others in the same price range at the time. But the new cameras we looked at today were soooo much better.

After looking at several cameras in different price ranges and capabilities Chelsea chose the Nikon Coolpix P500, a definite step up from her first Coolpix several years ago, and her more recent Fujifilm FinePix pocket camera. We also had a much better time camera shopping at Photo Market than at Best Buy (and the salespeople at Hunt’s were helpful, too).

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Bzzt. Pop! (Smoke.)

Among the things your computer isn’t supposed to do:

Unfortunately, mine did. Well, at least the one I use for work did. That means part of today was spent trying to get the old laptop updated enough to be usable, failing, and being set up with a temporary computer while “Smokey” goes in for service.

Technology. Wonderful when it works.