Sunday, June 5th, 2016

One of my internet friends sent me a link to a video of a steam engine. Not a locomotive, but a steam-driven water pump. And not just any water pump, but a pump that kept water flowing to a huge chunk of the city of London. The engine that drove the pumps was literally as tall as a three story building, and it still works. A small army of volunteers keeps it in working order and fires it up occasionally for the pleasure of visitors.

To get a steam engine that big going, the engineer uses a much smaller steam engine. Comically small, compared to the big engine. When I first laid eyes on it, I thought, “That’s not such an impressive engine.” And then I realized that the engine was behind it. The starter engine is barely half as tall as the engineer, and it rattles and shakes when he engages it with the flywheel, which is so large it barely appears to be moving at first, but it keeps chugging and the engineer keeps increasing the speed until all the cylinders on the big engine have been rotated through a couple cycles to warm them up and are ready to go on their own.

Even then, they’re just barely ready. When the engineer disengages the starter engine from the flywheel, his body language seems to indicate that he’s not sure the big engine will keep going. He windmills his arms so wildly that I thought he was going to fall over backwards.

Kempton Park Big Triple | 9:54 am CDT
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Monday, May 23rd, 2016

I quite like this one, too.

SHOWTIME! | 7:58 pm CDT
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Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

I just can’t get enough of this video.

WORK! | 1:09 pm CDT
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Monday, December 1st, 2014

Very cool.

Here’s a gallery of still shots and some background about the places – real places! – in the solar system that you’re looking at in the video.

Wanderers | 5:28 pm CDT
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Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Word Crimes | 4:26 pm CDT
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Monday, June 9th, 2014

I was listening to tunes while doing some mindless, repetitive paperwork the other day when “Don’t Walk Away” came up as a random pick. My phone’s shuffle option tends to favor modern pop tunes and the Dave Brubeck best-of album I bought a year ago. It almost never plays the one-off tunes in my collection even though it’s supposed to be random, so I practically never hear older songs like “I Want You Back” or “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'” unless I flip through the list and poke it by hand.

That’s one reason I was startled enough to stop what I was doing and sit up in my chair when “Don’t Walk Away” came around on shuffle. Another reason is, the song opens with the raw, ragged voice of Toni Childs all but shouting the title of the song, followed by a brace of trumpets blasting out two quick bars before Childs repeats her demand. It’s an introduction that grabs you by the lapels and holds on.

But the most personal reason I had to stop and listen to “Don’t Walk Away” is that it’s my breakup song, the song that perfectly captured my utter wretchedness at the moment my heart had broken. Those three words and those blaring horns were a top ten hit when I was dumped by the one and only person I couldn’t live without.

After I heard this song on VH1 or MTV or whatever I went straight out to the store, was strangely relieved to find they had a copy of “Reunion” on cassette tape, paid whatever they asked for it, popped it into my player as soon as I got back to my dorm and replayed it so many times I’m surprised to this day that my roomie didn’t strangle me in my sleep. He gave me a pass only because he and everybody else in the whole world could see what a wreck I was.

That summer, Toni Childs barked out the words I needed to hear. I still get the chills listening to this song, same way I get all warm and gooshy inside when I hear Basia Trzetrzelewska, another singer you’ve never heard of, croon “Time and Tide.” What a year that was. What a song.

Don’t Walk Away | 8:42 pm CDT
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Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Today I learned from Garrison Keillor via The Writer’s Almanac that:

The Times Square celebration dates back to 1904, when The New York Times opened its headquarters on Longacre Square. The newspaper convinced the city to rename the area “Times Square,” and they hosted a big party, complete with fireworks, on New Year’s Eve. Some 200,000 people attended, but the paper’s owner, Adolph Ochs, wanted the next celebration to be even splashier. In 1907, the paper’s head electrician constructed a giant lighted ball that was lowered from the building’s flagpole.

Other cities have developed their own ball-dropping traditions. Atlanta, Georgia, drops a giant peach. Eastport, Maine, drops a sardine. Ocean City, Maryland, drops a beach ball, and Mobile, Alabama, drops a 600-pound electric Moon Pie. In Tempe, Arizona, a giant tortilla chip descends into a massive bowl of salsa. Brasstown, North Carolina, drops a Plexiglas pyramid containing a live possum; and Key West, Florida, drops an enormous ruby slipper with a drag queen inside it.

Wait, what was that last?

Yes. Yes, it was:

drag queen drop | 7:38 pm CDT
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Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Armaments, Chapter Two, Verses 9 to 21: Then did he raise on high the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, saying, “Bless this, O Lord, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy.”

15: First thou pullest the Holy Pin.

16-17: Then thou must count to three. Three shall be the number of the counting and the number of the counting shall be three.

18: Four shalt thou not count, neither shalt thou count two, excepting that thou then proceedeth to three.

19: Five is right out.

20-21: Once the number three, being the number of the counting, be reached, then lobbest thou the Holy Hand Grenade in the direction of thine foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it.

snuff it | 9:38 am CDT
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Thursday, November 28th, 2013

The link I had to click on today: Sperm whale explodes as man tries to open stomach – video

Just to be clear: The man doesn’t try to open the whale’s stomach. He bloody well opens it. (And never has an expletive been more appropriate.) Not for the squeamish, obviously.

kaboom | 7:19 am CDT
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Sunday, November 17th, 2013

This is nothing new to me. Our eldest son, the Sean-er-ator, has always eaten apples entirely, even the stems.

My favorite part of the video is when he wipes his hands on his shirt.

my son is a boss | 7:31 am CDT
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Friday, June 28th, 2013

Too good not to share:

Dumb Ways To Die | 9:47 pm CDT
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Monday, May 13th, 2013

Even though I’ve never especially liked David Bowie’s Space Oddity, this cover by ISS commander Chris Hadfield is not only just plain awesome, the production values are going to be hard for anyone else to beat ever:

Hadfield is a Canadian member of the ISS and is playing a Canadian-made Larrivee Parlor guitar – how freakin awesome is it that there’s a guitar on the space station?

ADDED: How Hadfield’s recording of Space Oddity came to be.

Space Oddity | 6:51 pm CDT
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