Sunday, May 22, 2011

Geocaching and Waymarking Estonia

Can you spot the geocache in this picture? (Answer at end of post.) Ordinarily, I'm not a big fan of urban geocaching, but I wanted to add "Estonia" to my list of countries geocached. I think that makes 10.

There aren't a ton of waymarks in Tallinn, but on my recent trip, I decided to hit a few of them and add a couple more. I started out with adding a "You Are Here" ("Asud Siin") sign just outside my hotel.
I think my favorite part is the other "You Are Here" sign right behind it. (No, I didn't mark that one; I don't have time to be a completist.)

Next, we come to what was probably my favorite waymark, "Moment After the Kiss". Near the hotel, just outside Old Tallinn, is a park with a hill known as "Kissing Hill". The government (no idea whether local or national) commissioned this sculpture a few years ago. I think I just like the fact that a government was able to install something other than a bland, literal statue of two people kissing. Props to the Estonians for their taste in art.
Hmm. According to the sculptor's web site, there was also a "Moment Before the Kiss" sculpture that I missed. Oh, well. Maybe next time.

I visited a couple more waymarks of minimal interest, and created one more. I had been to the World Heritage site of Old Tallinn almost exactly four years ago. Although I had just started waymarking, I didn't create the waymarking in the "World Heritage Sites" category. I rectified that this time.

OK, well what about that geocache? It was under the post box.
Sorry for the odd angle on the picture, but it was actually harder to take the picture without attracting notice than it was to retrieve the geocache. To retrieve it, I just sat on the ground and pretended to fiddle with my phone (OK, I actually was fiddling with my phone, trying to get WiFi) until nobody was looking too closely. Sadly, neither geocoin I had with me fit in the box, but I did accomplish my goal of finding an Estonian cache.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Department of e-mails you're slightly happier to get from a TA...

Jon: Good news.  I found your name on a fax from Frithjof.  (It was not with the other names, which is why I didn't get it when I was recording grades--sorry about that.)  In any case, I'll have the "I" removed.  Your paper grade was "A" so that should figure toward an "A" or A minus for the course.  Sorry for the confusion. --Jeff
This e-mail (received 20 years ago today) is a follow up to the one from four days ago. I figured it was better off not asking why anyone would fax a list of names with one of them in a different place than all the others.

The paper? I think this is a draft of it. Intriguingly, it seems to only contain the first part, "Law and Punishments"; the intriguing second part, "Existentialism and Mathematics" appears to be lost to history except for this first page.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Written on an airplane earlier this week...

Spending 8 hours crammed into a plane seat in coach is not generally my idea of a good time (oh, how I miss those upgrades). One advantage, though, is that it gives me time to let my mind wander -- time that has been in short supply lately. I don't have to think about diaper changing, or work, or groceries...

Of course, many of the thoughts are still about the kids. Listening to a podcast which mentions "The Right Stuff" makes me think about how it would be fun to show the kids that movie some day -- maybe when they're 13 or so. And then the thought pops into my head -- what if one of  them wants to be a pilot? While that would be cool, I think it would be very stressful to have the same kid who right now can't feed himself in charge of making a hunk of metal hurl through the air.

In order to slow down the mental percolation enough to  get some sleep, I switched from my podcasts to a playlist of my favorite songs. (The measure of success I've had can be seen by the fact I'm composing this blog entry five hours into the flight.) As my fickle fingers skipped some songs
and lingered on others, I pondered what constituted a really enjoyable song for me.

I feel like it's easy to make a decent song out of common themes -- love (requited or no), growing up, etc. Some of the songs on my favorites list come from this source -- "Take Me, I'm Yours",
"In My Life" and "Scenes from An Italian Restaurant," to name three examples.

But what I find really cool are when an artist can take a song about a theme few others would think to sing about -- and then make it work.

Some examples I've listened to tonight:

·       Elvis Costello's "Veronica" -- a song about a woman with Alzhemier's. It brings tears to my eyes most times I hear it. (But not tonight for some reason -- maybe it's the dry airplane air.)

·       The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" -- about the end of the Civil War -- not a usual topic for top 40. Also, I always take a moment to enjoy the fact that the good guys won that one.

·       Ben Folds' "Levi Johnston's Blues" (with Nick Hornby) -- Not just a song about Bristol Palin's baby daddy -- not just a song from the viewpoint of Levi Johnston -- but a song that incorporates Levi Johnston's own words from his Myspace page and makes them sound melodious. (For the record: "I'm a fuckin' redneck, I live to hang out with the boys, play
some hockey, do some fishing and kill some moose. I like to shoot the shit and do some chillin' I guess. You fuck with me, and I'll kick your ass.") I guess this is technically about love and growing up, but it comes at it from such a different angle.

Sometimes this leads me a bit in the direction of the novelty song -- I don't think anyone's going to confuse Manfred Mann's "The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)" with a work of genius. These are the songs that earn a look from Christina that says, "Really?"
when they come on the iPod shuffle. In some cases, they earn a quick fast-forward -- say, Jump 'n' the Saddle's "The Curly Shuffle", or most of the"Weird Al" oeuvre -- unless she's feeling particularly indulgent.

I like to think that these are the types of songs I'd  write if I wrote songs. I don't think the world would be any poorer without another song of love lost or regrets of youth. But wouldn't it be a nicer place to live if there were good songs about pseudoprimes or meeples or identical
twins or one of the other things that race through my head on a transatlantic  flight.

You might think, "Jon, I can imagine what those songs would sound like if you wrote them, and I'm glad you don't write songs." Ah, but that's what makes songs like that so wonderful. "The Cask of Amontillado" is a great American short story; I'd have no idea how to turn it into a song -- but Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson did. "Right Here, Right Now" was probably not the most brilliant song of twenty years ago, but the end of the Cold War was a pretty big deal, and I find it odd that this was its only musical commemoration.

I should try to get some sleep now.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Maybe the "E" doesn't stand for "Estonia"

When I visited Estonia in 2007, I made fun of the "Old Estonia" restaurant for spelling their name with a superfluous "E" in tacky "Ye Olde Shoppe" style. On my return this week, I was gratified to see lots of signs for "Old Estonia". I figured they had come to their senses.

Examination of my old photo, on the other hand, shows that they had already rubbed out the extra "E" in the metal sign, with only the awning emphasizing "Olde". The new awning does as well, although it is not captured in my new picture below. Their web site confirms that the correct name is, in fact, "Old Estonia," so my new theory is just that there's a signmaker in Tallinn who doesn't know how to spell.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A nice memory...

OK, the picture is closer to forty years ago than twenty years ago, but here is an e-mail from May 18, 1991:
I played Spite 'n' Malice w/ Oma today...she seemed tickled to death when I suggested it, although she said "You're only doing this to be nice".  There are worse reasons to do things, and besides it was fun.
I won $0.05, too.

(Not posted: various grumpy e-mails about how she always managed to wake me up a few minutes before my alarm went off, even when I tried to anticipate her and set my alarm for a few minutes earlier.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Department of e-mails you don't want to receive from a TA...

Twenty years ago today, I got this note:
Jon: When Frithjof faxed the grades for the final papers, yours was not on the list.  I'm going to double check everything just to be sure, but I'm quite certain your grade isn't there.  Assuming that there was nothing unusual about the way you turned the paper in (putting it in a box, sliding it under a door, etc.--if any of that happened, let me know because it may still be sitting somewhere), the best thing to do,if possible, is to get another copy to me via the Dept. office (i.e. give it to the secretary).  If there's a problem with this, let me know. Sorry about the confusion.  --Jeff
I find two things remarkably modern about this: that the bad news was delivered via e-mail, and that I was just able to grab another copy off my hard drive. Not bad for 1991! On the other hand, two things seem quite ancient -- that copy was to be printed off and mailed, and the grades were faxed in.

Friday, May 06, 2011

The Joys of Waymark Posting

On my waymarking profile, I have the following defense of visiting waymarks, which I think I originally posted years ago in the waymarking forums. (Many waymarkers only create their own waymarks, but never visit others'.)
56 reasons why visiting is better than posting.
  1. It's easier. You don't have to spend a bunch of time looking up information on when the sculpture was created, or the web site of the library...

  2. It's deeper. After your visit, the waymark page will have more than one perspective on it, possibly including pictures from different seasons, or as the site changes.

  3. It connects you with someone else. You get to see the site through the eyes of the person who posted the waymark.

  4. It connects someone else with you. The person who visits the waymark will (probably) be happy that someone else has enjoyed it.

  5. It acts as a double-check. While in San Diego recently, I found a couple of waymarks where the coordinates were off by about a mile. I pointed that out in my log, so the owner apologized and corrected.

  6. You don't have to wait for approval to post a visit.

I haven't posted a waymark since August, but lately I've been considering the other side of the equation -- namely, what do I get out of my posted waymarks? Well, for one thing, I get notifications every time someone visits my waymark. In particular, it's fun to think that some German guy posted the above photo to verify that he had been at the waymark. Of course, for this waymark (Roman ruins in Cologne), he had taken the picture to log a virtual geocache. Because of the geocache, it's probably my most-visited waymark, but consider my Tim Horton's waymark in Ontario.
This guy undoubtedly took this goofy picture not as a souvenir of nabbing some delicious Canadian donuts, but rather to post to my waymark. Awesome. It makes me want to post more waymarks. Of course, this only works if other people buy into the idea of visiting them. So I'll try to do both on my upcoming trip.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011