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GeoGuessr

3 Jun

My latest internet time-waster is GeoGuessr, a real-life version of “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”. Basically, you’re given a view from Google Earth and then supposed to guess where the heck you are. The closer you are, the more points you get. It’s oddly fascinating. Of course, I’m the sort of person who obsessively pin-points the exact spot using the powers of the internet. It’s pretty easy if you’ve got city street signs or large monuments in your view. Rural highways are killer, though. It’s a cool way to see other parts of the world without the hassle of international flights. I recommend killing a few minutes on it.

 

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Space Oddity

15 May

I’ll get back to my Sweden recap on Friday, but right now I want to point you all in the direction of personal favorite, astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield. Commander Hadfield signed off a five month stay at the ISS with a poignant and frankly impressive rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity. In SPACE.

Welcome back to planet Earth, Commander Hadfield. I’m going to miss your life-in-orbit updates.

Life in Orbit

19 Apr

Commander Chris Hadfield continues to be awesome. As an astronaut currently living on the International Space Station, he’s already cooler than pretty much everyone else on the planet. He’s tweeted with Captain Kirk, he posts pictures of the Earth from orbit on his Tumblr, and this week, he did SCIENCE with Canadian high schoolers.

Commander Hadfield did a simple science experiment designed by tenth graders Kendra Lemke and Meredith Faulkner. The students from Fall River, Nova Scotia won a national science contest held by the Canadian Space Agency with their experiment on surface tension in space using a wet washcloth.

Baggage

25 Feb

Over the weekend, I watched “Up in the Air” for the first time with my host family. It was a good movie and I found it fairly thought provoking in a number of ways. Like, “okay, I know I’m probably nowhere near 10 million miles, but I wonder how many I’ve flown?” (Answer: uh, I dunno? I don’t keep count, but I’ve done a fair amount of flying in my life.) More importantly, I kept thinking about George Clooney’s character’s spiel about things. Continue reading

Our New Feline Overlords

22 Feb

I could be talking about all sorts of interesting or fascinating subjects, but this is a Team Cat blog and frankly, this is too awesome to not pass on. Apparently, there’s a train station in Japan that is run by a cat.

Meet Tama. She’s the station manager and operating officer of the Kishi Station in Kinokawa, Japan.

 TamaPhoto by Anthonation, Wikipedia Commons.

In 2006, the Wakayama Electric Rail company decided to make all their stations on the Kishigawa line automated. They originally picked station managers from local workers who could keep an eye on things. Toshiko Koyama was the first manger and she fed the local strays at the stop, including Tama. In 2007, Tama was officially named as the station manager. Tama gets paid in free cat food and gets to wear a funny little hat. Since then, she’s risen in the ranks and is currently “the only female in a managerial position within the company”, which is less funny and more sad. Hey, let’s look at her in a funny hat to make us feel better about entrenched sexism in the workplace!

tama 2013Tama wishes everyone a great 2013 in this photo from the official Kishigawa Line blog.

I for one cannot wait until increased automation allows us to name household pets as transportation workers in the US. One can only imagine that Mr. Snuffles would be a better manager of the LIRR.

 

The Longest War

8 Feb

If you haven’t read Rebecca Solnit’s magnificent, horrifyingly truthful article on the war on women, you should do so now. Some people say that there isn’t one, least of all in America. They’re not paying attention. Frankly, after reading that article for the third time, I’m not really capable of anything more than an incandescent rage.

Here’s an except (but you should really read the whole thing):

“Never mind workplace violence, let’s go home.  So many men murder their partners and former partners that we have well over 1,000 homicides of that kind a year — meaning that every three years the death toll tops 9/11’s casualties, though no one declares a war on this particular terror. (Another way to put it: the more than 11,766 corpses from domestic-violence homicides since 9/11 exceed the number of deaths of victims on that day and all American soldiers killed in the “war on terror.”) If we talked about crimes like these and why they are so common, we’d have to talk about what kinds of profound change this society, or this nation, or nearly every nation needs. If we talked about it, we’d be talking about masculinity, or male roles, or maybe patriarchy, and we don’t talk much about that.”

Rebecca Solnit

 

 

Not Falling but Flying

18 Jan

There’s a great piece up over at Ta-Nehisi’s place about his thoughts on international travel. I’ve been enjoying his posts on learning another language over the past year or so, so I’m stoked that he’s actually going to Europe. (Euro Horde meetup, y/y?) International travel is a weird thing: in most cases you end up going to a place where you don’t understand the local language.  There’s a particular terror and frustration reserved for these communication breakdowns.

I was sixteen when I went to Taiwan for a year as an exchange student. I had about five months of intermittent Chinese lessons. I had been there previously with my family, but going on a week long business trip with your dad and going to high school where you are one of two white kids in a school of a thousand girls are two completely different things. I’ve come a long way since then, but I still remember the sheer panic and embarrassment that came with standing in front of the whole school and having to give a short hello speech in Chinese.

I’m practically an expat at this point. Last year was a banner year for passport stamps (most of which can be blamed on Hong Kong’s egregious overstamping whenever you pass through border control) and I went to half a dozen countries in 2012. Incomprehension is the default and the only way to deal is to move forward. My advice to TNC? Take a couple deep breaths, smile, and bluster on through. You’ll be fine, dude.

Hualien, Taiwan

The view from my window in Hualien, Taiwan 2006.