Eclipse 2024

[Disclaimer: I totally failed at using a calendar. April 8, 2024 is a Monday, I think. Ignore my discussion of it being a weekend below until I’ve had a chance to revise this post].

I took this picture, but you could have too. Millions did.
Copyright Oh Who Cares

The year is currently 2017. August 22, to be exact. Do you remember what happened yesterday? It was the “Great American Eclipse” or some other such grandiose name. It was an epic eclipse, crossing the entire country, visible in one way or another from the whole mainland. I went into the totality zone, like millions of others, and these are my notes to the future citizens of planet earth–those people contemplating viewing the 2024 eclipse from the totality zone.

My first thought-do it. It will be April 8, which will be a Saturday (assuming strange things don’t happen before then). Most people will not have to work, but if you do, do your best to get the day off. There won’t be any kids in school, so take them too. The experience is like nothing else, and is rare enough that some people may never get to see one in person. It is a full body experience (ok, I didn’t notice any different scents or tastes, but the other three senses were impacted).

My second thought is-traffic will be worse on April 8 2024 than it was August 21, 2017. I’ll guess it will be three or four times worse. Maybe a hundred. Whatever, traffic will be bad. So here are my suggestions for dealing with it.

  • Do not travel to small towns who are marketing themselves to eclipse watchers. In all likelihood, they won’t really know how to deal with the influx. Hopkinsville, KY made this mistake in 2017, and it took people 3+ hours just to get out of “Hoptown”. The town is maybe 7 miles in diameter. It should take 20 minutes to fully cross, and only 10 minutes to get out. 18 times normal. That’s pretty bad.
  • Do not travel large distances, and hope to get home the day of the eclipse. I personally know one family that spent 16 hours driving what would normally be a 6 hour trip. My personal experience wasn’t quite so bad: 9 hours to travel what normally would have been 5.5. Your mileage may vary, but assume a factor of 2-3 times normal.
  • If you’re going to arrange for a place to stay in totality, stay there for a night or two after the eclipse. I’m pretty sure, based on the level of traffic after the 2017 eclipse that most people had arranged to arrive early, but then EVERYONE left at the same time.

Finally, make sure you provide for shade and toilet needs on the time approaching the eclipse. I had only half planned for these details, and they ended up working out in my favor. I willingly paid $20 to hang out in a municipal park where there were flush toilets, trees, and emergency services if they were needed.

Reading recent and/or popular books for free

OK, yes, I know. Everyone knows about the Columbus Metropolitan Library. It’s freaking awesome.

If you know about the awesomeness of the CML, then you probably know that you can download books to your Kindle (or Kindle app), or your Nook (or other epub reader). That nifty feature is right under the “Explore” menu, under ECONTENT (sic), which is managed by Overdrive.com.

There aren’t millions of books available like there are in print (just under 100k at the time of writing), and I’ve recently been frustrated that several of my searches came up with ebooks that were all checked out. But, and here’s the cool part, you can filter any search on Overdrive to show you only the books that are available for immediate download. For example, here are all the ebooks in Non-fiction, Business, Available Now–with the most recent additions at the top.

But my favorite way to sort is by Popularity (Global). They don’t describe how they measure popularity, but that’s OK with me–I get to see all the top books that are available to download RIGHT FREAKING NOW. FOR FREE!!!

So lets summarize what it takes to get a new thriller onto your device:

  1. For Columbus Library members, you can go straight to clc.overdrive.com
  2. Click Subjects in the top menu.
  3. Under Subjects, click EBOOKS so that you don’t see audio books or videos.
  4. Click the subject of interest. For example Thriller, under the Fiction heading.
  5. Under Availability on the left, click Available Now.
  6. The default list puts the most recent additions at the top. If you want the most popular titles at the top of the list, choose Popularity (global) from the sort list in the upper right.
  7. Click borrow. You may then have to give your library card number.
  8. A banner appears telling you to check your Loans page. Click the link.
  9. Now you need to choose your ebook format. Click read in browser to, um, read it in your browser.  If you want to add it to your Kindle, choose that format. You’ll be taken to Amazon.com where you’ll need to click Get Library Book to have it delivered to your Kindle (or other Kindle-app enabled device).

OK, its not sooper easy, but its only about 9 clicks to get a book on your device, free of charge. Score!

 

Culture of Alcoholism

002_7619In the US of A, alcohol is everywhere, and those who consume it (or sell to those who consume it) seem to think that everyone consumes it. And not only does it seem like there’s an assumption of consumption, but that consuming to excess is tacitly encouraged. Case in point: a tech industry user conference I recently went to. To be clear, this particular conference was no different than any other in regards to alcohol. I’m using it to illustrate my point regarding our culture as a whole.

It was a two day conference with invite-only meetings the day before.

  • Monday, after invite only meetings, participants in my meeting were invited to head to the hotel bar for sponsor-paid-for drinks. An executive level meeting had alcohol flowing throughout the day.
  • Tuesday, at an invite-only lunch (but it wasn’t hard to get an invite), champagne was handed out at the door “for a toast”. Then glasses were refreshed 45 minutes later. No toast was ever made.
  • Tuesday late afternoon, the “partner pavilion” had free alcohol. Two different people assumed that I was on my way to get something to drink when I was talking to partners.
  • Tuesday evening dinner was paid for by a vendor. This was a close-knit group of coworkers and employees of the vendor, so only about half of the people present drank, and it was in moderation. I think there was an invite to head to the hotel bar afterwards, but I declined.
  • Wednesday happy hour in the partner pavilion had free drinks again.
  • Wednesday evening, immediately following the happy hour, we went to a “final party” event featuring a 90’s band. While walking into the venue, people were pushing glasses of unspecified mixed drinks into attendees hands.

002_7629Never mind that there were a couple of open bars in the venue. Never mind that people arriving had already been consuming if they had chosen. Someone thought “We need to get alcohol into their bellies as quickly as possible. Don’t make them wait in line at the bar for their next drink. Don’t make them grab a prepared drink from a tray. Shove it right into their hands.”

002_7620You know how its hard to not take something that is handed to you? People handing out leaflets know this–get it into their hands so that maybe they’ll look at it. Laws in Las Vegas specifically prohibit this kind of behavior for the people hawking escort services. I had to actively turn down the drink that was pushed at me. I had to resist the automatic behavior and say “no thanks” before I had stepped 5 feet beyond the door.

I’m not upset that alcohol was offered. It was pushed. It was pushed to people who had ample opportunity to drink prior to the event had they chosen to. This is the culture of alcoholism–the inherent assumption that everyone needs more to drink.

The ground

I find myself standing in a field. Or maybe a prairie. There’s wide open space all around me, with long grasses, waving in a gentle breeze. If I stand still long enough, I can feel the earth pushing up against my feet.

Sitting down, I feel comfortable. Its the kind of comfort I felt as a child with my head on my mom’s lap, her long narrow fingers stroking my hair. I look around the prairie, at the ground so close to me, and I notice beauty in everything–the tiny flowers, the seeds on the grasses, the subtle hues on the pebbles. And since this is my field, my prairie, there are no snakes. I feel safe knowing the snakes are only in someone else’s patch of ground.

When I lay back, feeling the cool earth on my shoulder blades, I look up at the sky. With deep slow breaths, I can, I believe, feel the planet rotating. The sky is blue, and the apex of the dome is the kind of deep blue you only see in your dreams. A few friendly clouds move very slowly. Or am I moving beneath the clouds? The sensation of movement–do I feel it or do I see it? I cannot see the sun, but I feel warm, like the warmth of a baby cradled in its mother’s arms.

My eyes close, and I can hear the cicadas calling to each other. The breeze blows through the grasses near to my ears, and dishevels my hair, just a bit. The ground is firm, but I don’t need a pillow. In a moment I could just fall asleep.

And then its gone. Did I jump? Was there a cliff? Its like I’m falling in a dream, but I’m too disoriented to be afraid. I was just enjoying the support of the earth, and the comfort of my prairie, and now, what? Is that Dorothy in a tornado? Am I falling or flying?

I try to look down, but I see nothing. Not black. Not white. Nothing. The people I love are all swirling around me. Jesus, I’ve transformed into my own Wizard of Oz metaphor. I look at each of their faces as they tell me “its going to be OK”, and “we love you”, and “we’re here to help”. But what’s happening to me? Where am I going? Am I going up or down or sideways? They answer, but I can’t really understand. I focus on their faces, trying to read their lips, but I can’t. I reach out, and my wife grabs my hand. I pull her closer, and she looks around with me. No ground. No prairie. No grasses or cicadas.

Other faces emerge. My dad. He joins us. My aunt. She gives me a hug. My children wrap their arms around me, and I wrap mine around them. We hold each other.

My mom’s face appears amid the chaos. I reach out to her, but I can’t touch her.

“Goodbye.”