Lessons #395-397: Bering, Tel Aviv, and the Tufted Puffin

Right, so…school has clearly taken over my life. It’s somehow been nearly seven weeks since my last post.

Three quick lessons today (because I don’t have time to expand on them):

1. The Bering Sea/Strait/whatever else out there is called Bering are named for late 17th/early 18th century Danish explorer Vitus Bering. I have no idea how I didn’t know Bering was a person. His explorations were part of Peter the Great’s golden age of Russian Imperialism.

2. Tel Aviv apparently has the biggest pride week celebrations in all of continental Asia.

3. There is such a thing as a tufted puffin, and it is awesome!


It’s a new year and stuff…

So…2014 is here. It kind of snuck up on me. I knew it was coming, it’s just that the back half of 2013 just somehow flew by. And now suddenly January is halfway gone, and I have no idea how that even happened. It’s been somewhat disorienting.

Anyway, I headed north to spend a bit (seriously, it was like 24 hours) of time with my family at my brother’s place in the northeast. And then I spent a bit (seriously, it was like 30 hours) of time with some friends, one of whom lives in the area and the other of whom drove up from the state he lives in to participate in a whirlwind tour of being generally awesome.* It was really nice to see my family…we’re all spread out most of the year, so the fact that we were in the same place at the same time twice last year (in two different countries, no less) is pretty impressive. And, of course, it was good to see my friends. Because my friends are awesome.

So let’s just do a quick review of some of the things I’ve learned since my last post.

1. At the age of 34, Mendelssohn founded the Conservatory of Music** in Leipzig. Nothing makes me feel like more of a failure as a completely average human being than reading things like that. I can barely function, and Mendelssohn was founding an effing conservatory.

2. You would be forgiven for thinking that In Bruges would be Colin Farrell’s highest rated movie on Rotten Tomatoes. You’d be wrong, but you’d be forgiven. You’d also be forgiven thinking it’s all a baffling mistake because In Bruges is dark and hilarious and better than Seven Psychopaths (which, like In Bruges, is dark, hilarious, and written by Martin McDonough), which scored a point higher.

3. Somewhere around late October/early November, I was doing some late-night tinkering on my Netflix profile because it had been giving me terrible suggestions for what to watch. So I rated a bunch of movies to give it a better idea that what I want from its algorithm is to give me shades of dark ranging from dusk to middle of damn night, with an appropriate spritzing of things like The Princess Bride and Clueless.*** I rated ‘Gangs of New York’ and then it asked me “How often do you watch cool moustache movies?” I’m not even joking. I took a screengrab of it because…apparently cool moustaches is a film genre now?? Anyway, I bring this up because this article about the number of microgenres in Netflix’s repertoire is an excellent look into how to sell something in the digital age.

4. I became reacquainted with my stupidly good sense of direction when The Swede and I went looking for some information. And when my language memory failed me, my geographical memory did not.**** I was quite pleased with myself how little time it took.

5. Speaking of Sweden, somehow I never knew that the Swedish Empire was an actual thing that actually existed. Despite the fact that I knew the Swedes had steamrolled the Czechs in the mid-17th century.

6. Rugby football dates to the 1830s (which surprised both me and my chef friend, but actually makes perfect sense if you consider England before that point), when the Rugby School developed its own set of rules to a ball game apart from the elsewise observed Cambridge Rules that became association football (soccer). American football dates to the late 1860s.

So…fingers crossed I don’t lose track of the next two weeks and write up a proper post in the next couple days. I’ve got a busy weekend ahead of me, so I’ll try to get it up by Friday evening.

*Serio, we were very obviously having way more fun than everyone else in the room everywhere we went.

**Now called the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy University of Music and Theatre.

***It doesn’t really make sense, but there are not words for how much I love Clueless.

****This is, incidentally, a skill that used to impress my best friend to no end and really impressed my friends when we were in Budapest. If only it were marketable.

I’m not dead! Hooray!

So…I appear to have been away for quite some time. I didn’t realize this much time had actually passed, but there it is.

In any event, I have learned all manner of interesting things in my absence from the blog including, but certainly not limited to, the Air Boss and the Skittles aboard a Navy aircraft carrier (courtesy of a new friend who did a stint working intelligence aboard an aircraft carrier…I totally want to be the Air Boss), how to play chess (courtesy of the same friend — I’m not very good), that Cristiano Ronaldo — of whom I have very little nice to say — is setting up a museum to himself in Portugal (because of course he is), that there’s a hexagonal storm going on over Saturn’s north pole, that Jared Leto can actually sing (I’ve known for years that he had a band, but until recently, I’d never heard them play), that the growl on the new Jaguar F-Type R is truly awesome, that Tom Hiddleston is pretty much the coolest (see here, here, here, and, oh God, here), that electrons are spherical, that an Italian guy had the most Oktoberfest experience of all Oktoberfest experiences when it took him five weeks to find his car, that Viking longships used a shield rack along the gunwales to provide extra protection from the wind and waves (which is a pretty brilliant storage solution), that, to put some numbers into perspective, for every American soldier killed in the Second World War, roughly 21(!) Soviet soldiers were killed, that the Pony Express only lasted a year and a half (how is this something everyone knows existed, but doesn’t realize was almost immediately replaced by telegraph wires?), and that Nelson Mandela was 95. Seriously, 95. Revolutionaries rarely live long enough to die of old age, so that’s quite something.

Anyway, I’ll probably be in and out until after the new year, but I’m going to try to get this going again…

Lesson #256 – something higher than that

So my schedule’s been a little hectic and I have a social life again and I just reformatted my hard drive, which sort of combines into not being diligent about keeping this up, but I’ve learned a whole bunch of really random stuff since the move.

For instance, there are immune system antibodies in tears (learned from an old college friend with a PhD in biology), and that it is, in fact, possible for 200,000 people to be in one place and not get into fights over minor differences and Jefferson Davis had an inauguration and there’s a dead ringer for Eminem living somewhere in a nearby county (a friend and I ended up drinking next to him/randomly meeting him at a microbrewery last weekend) and that to get to my best friend’s house, I have to drive right past the shipping port and it’s awesome, and assorted other random things.

But I’m back. For real this time. So…let’s move on shall we?

Lesson #139: A Bunch of Random

I was travelling all day, so I literally learned nothing of any great interest. Especially given how much of interest I have learned today.

But I did learn stuff, so here you go.

1. The bus schedule says it takes four hours and 50 minutes to get from Eilat to Jerusalem. It takes a little over four.

2. Camel crossing signs. Hell. YES!

3. The Hejaz Railroad* exists, but in four years in Jordan, my friend in Amman has never seen a single train on it. She’s heard a grand total of one…and her apartment when she lived in the north was not very far from the railroad.

4. I actually learned this on Friday, but there are SPEED BUMPS in the middle of the highway in Jordan. I figured I’d throw that in for your reading pleasure. I’ll just say that driving in Jordan is an interesting experience. And I do use “interesting” like my maternal grandmother uses it. Traffic rules are just things that you might want to abide by sometimes if you feel like it, every fifth Tuesday or so.

*The one Lawrence blew up.