Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer knowledge :: Throwing chum, grilling onions

Working as a galley mate during college summers on a party boat in the small, quiet fishing village back where I came from, I learned these things:

1. If you grill onions at 10:00 AM, people will want lunch by 10:15 AM.

2. The more vociferously a drunk man protests the presence of a girl on a boat, the more likely he is to soon be paging Ralph.

3. Seagulls don't only eat bread from the dumpster behind the bakery; they also catch in mid-air the fish guts and skeletons that deckhands toss over the rails.

4. "First boat to grounds daily," and "heated rails" are both important promises.

5. Bluefish are delicious: brush with olive oil, broil with garlic and onions.

6. There is no number six.

7. If the head cook starts sharpening knives when the ocean gets rough, dance.

8. The more chum you throw, the more fish you catch.

Captain Charlie Becker's "TAMPA VI" from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY.  Gulf Craft built this 120-foot party boat in 1977: at the time, it was the largest party fishing boat they had built.  In 1986, she was converted into a dinner cruise boat.  She was later sold, and operated as a Galapagos Islands dive boat.  Photo courtesy of Scotty Tibbs II and Gulf Craft Inc.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Textures and Sounds :: Metal, Marble and Glass

The clinking of the nickels.

The coolness of the metal, marble and glass.

The Automat :: now memorialized at the New York Public Library, through February, 2013.

The New York Times story.

The library's announcement.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

You can find any image; you can buy any souvenir

I loved the Kodak Instamatic camera* I had in grade school, and I was sad when I accidentally didn't pack it for a family trip on the S.S. France.

Fast forward to now, when the internet is filled with images of everything: cameras, ocean liners, ads, menus.

And you can buy any souvenir that you missed out on or lost.


* I showed my digital native sprout the Kodak Instamatic photo, and it was an interesting although inadvertent usability experiment:

-- Born in a world of apps, she perceived the image as screenshot of an app, not of a camera.

-- Her instant review of the app: "Too many buttons."

-- She had a description / mental model for each of the  things -- logo, model name and number nameplate, and she told me the functionality she imagined each one: take a picture, save, close.

 -- She had no mental model for a device with a tiny shutter button on the front, an eject button for a flashbulb and a crank/film winder on the back, and dismissed those functional descriptions as "something from when you were a child."

More Obsolete Technology

When I unloaded my old mountain bike in the cycling store's parking lot, looking for an air pump -- as you can see from the cobwebs on the tires, which are flat, I haven't ridden for a while -- the elite crowd gathering for an all-day outing was kind and helpful.

"Sorry, yes, the store is gone." *

"No, it's okay, they've moved to a bigger store."

"I have a frame pump, I can help with the tires."


Thank you.

Related:  "Record my ride" is not a good place for the "Pause" button on the cycling app.

* But the riders still gather there.

Birds: They Live Among Us

The barn swallows, tiny and demanding in their dried mud nest above the pool's gate during the Memorial Day weekend's opening ceremonies, have fledged.

It is thrilling that the parents came back and raised another family of six in the nest they built last year.

Hoping for a second family this season:

"There are normally two broods, with the original nest being reused for the second brood and being repaired and reused in subsequent years. Hatching success is 90% and the fledging survival rate is 70–90%. Average mortality is 70–80% in the first year and 40–70% for the adult.

-- Wikipedia:

Related: People at the bagel place discussing the similarities of modern ostriches and the dinosaur ancestors of birds.

"The Ornithomimosauria, ornithomimosaurs ("bird-mimic lizards") or ostrich dinosaurs[1] were theropod dinosaurs which bore a superficial resemblance to modern ostriches. They were fast, omnivorous or herbivorous dinosaurs from the Cretaceous Period of Laurasia (now Asia, Europe and North America)."

-- Wikipedia:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ray Bradbury: Yesterday to Forever

In his New Yorker essay that landed in mailboxes the week of his death, Ray Bradbury pretty much said that for a small-town child listening to the wind blow in the early 20th century, big cities were as distant as Mars -- so when airplanes had barely been invented, why not imagine a rocket?

"I would go out to that lawn on summer nights and reach up to the red light of Mars and say, 'Take me home!' I yearned to fly away and land there in the strange dusts that blew over dead-sea bottoms toward the ancient cities," he wrote, saying what had always been between the lines.

A proudly different autodidact, he invented the world he wanted to live in when he outgrew the one he was born in.

And even when success brought money and fame, he still went there:

“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room,” he was quoted, in one of so many blossomings of memory that sprung up on his passing as quickly as dandelions on a summer lawn after the rain.

Bradbury wrote equally about rockets and Mars, and about memory, yearning and the machineries of joy -- from motherless children provided with a robot grandmother, to carnivals and sideshows.

I've read Bradbury all my life: as a child, when interplanetary spaceships seemed as real as the subway through Manhattan or the Coney Island Cyclone; as a castaway, when I was lost and he gave me a compass; and as a grownup, buying new hardcovers to replace the vanished paperbacks, while wondering how they will seem to my child.

Writing on the air in tribute, and bouncing these words off a satellite, seems a small but fitting remembrance.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Hudson River and the Ocean

Sometimes, when there's lightning and thunder, I remember rain drumming on the metal roof at the  near the river. You could smell the ocean when it rained.

One day, the storm took out a few of the machines, and there were trees down everywhere. We had atomic batteries to power and turbines to speed by midway the next day.