11 Nov. 2007
SETI League
PriUPS Project

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The V-Word

I took a vacation this week.





The extra "white space" above is for the benefit of you thousands of millireaders who know me personally.  I trust that I've left you enough space to recover.  For the rest of you, if you haven't inferred it from reading earlier blogitems, I can summarize at least one aspect of my alleged life very simply:  I don't get out much.  On the rare occasions when I do have an out-of-state experience (New York doesn't count), I'm usually on a mission.  Sometimes it's a sad one, e.g., my trip to Mount Dora, more often it's business-related, such as a trade show.  But I have trouble even saying "vacation."  "The V-word" is my best locution; it can usually issue forth without a stutter.  This past week I learned how it works.

A friend had a problem.  It seems she had to be out of her apartment for two days while contractors ripped up her bathroom to install a new floor and a matching sink top.  Not having a floor in the bathroom can be an impediment to using iteven I can see that.  She has friends with a house in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and was planning to stay there for the two days.  She picked up the trepidation and made a call:  "Richard!  Would you like to spend two days at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware?" 

"You mean take a v...v...v...vacation?"


Just then, somewhere in my alleged brain one of the trillion neutrinos that pass through it every second hit a neuron and interacted with it.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.  If you are up on your Foundation Series, you will recall that a neutrino storm is capable of affecting a robot's positronic brain to the extent of modifying the Three Laws, something supposedly impossible.  Not so surprising, then, to find that even a single neutrino at the right instant modified my vacation instincts.  I replied:  "Let's do it!"

I had no idea what to expect from a vacation, so I tried to expect nothing.  The word "Beach" in the destination conjured sand and ocean, but even I of the nuclear-heated backyard pool didn't anticipate swimming, it being November.  I became a bit nonplussed after I mentioned the destination to a guy at work.  I told him I was "going to Delaware."  He immediately said "Oh, Rehoboth Beach?"  A lucky guess or a notorious resort?  Apparently the latter; he mentioned that it was "quite a honky-tonk."  Not to worryI would find out for myself shortly.  My friend, who was travelling even farther than I, collected me (in her Prius!) and in 200 scenic miles of New Jersey Turnpike and Delaware roads we arrived.

The Agenda

I had no agenda or plans.  "Vacation" is enough of a challenge for me.  But she did, this being a routine part of existence for most people.  Her agenda was this:

  • Fly a kite

  • Assemble a jigsaw puzzle

Success and Failure

She had never flown a kite!  Even I have done that, although age 10 is enough of forever ago that I had mercifully forgotten many of the details and most of my Charlie Brown experiences.

Blue kite, unposed clouds

She had fetched a pitiful, all-plastic, dime-store kite to the house.  Before we had the chance to unfurl it, I gave myself a "well-spotted" by noticing a kite store near the beach.  Roxanne, the indomitably cheerful salestron offered us many choices of kite and color.  The usual algorithm prevailed and we got a blue one.  The "never flown a kite in her life" provoked a further spasm of zeal and we selected the best one they had, along with 500 feet of string, which they call "line," which was rated at 90 pounds. 

No trees and just the right amount of wind made the exercise successful.  We limited the height to an estimated 150 feet after I reminded her that the kite itself would cheerfully unwind the string (line) but rewinding it would be perhaps a bit more tedious. 

The kite in the foreground and the clouds behind it should be sufficient attestation to the success of the venture.  I suppose it could be an elaborate scheme, with the clouds having been bribed to pose like that, but I'm prepared to supply an affidavit should that become necessary.

Agenda item #1:  Success

Unlike kite flying, we had both assembled jigsaw puzzles before.  I have actually done a whole one myself long ago, and not so long ago assisted with another, also eventually successfully completed.  I claim no special charisma with this activity.  I am methodical, perhaps to a fault, and compulsively attempt to assemble the periphery first, its pieces being easily identifiable by a flat side.  Incomplete jigsaw puzzle

This picture was taken shortlybut not immediatelybefore we left.  You can see a good portion of the bottom row and, at the far left, several islands of agglomeration at which she was striving.

In the hour before we left (I "packed" my stuff in seconds and so had some spare time) I had a breakthrough and actually completed the right and much of the top border, but the bottom resolutely defeated me, to the extent that I was convinced that there must have been several missing pieces.

Theory!  Jigsaw puzzles simultaneously attract and are incompatible with cats.  This is my second and fully consistent observation, and so I hereby promote this notion from hypothesis to theoretical almost-certainty.  I am not blaming the cat, mind you, for the almost total lack of completion of this puzzle.  But it didn't help at all.

Agenda item #2:  Failure

We left the puzzle in situ for the next people who will be visiting the house.  Until they either complete it or abandon it they will most likely be eating at restaurants.

House Noises, The Dog on the Lanai, Emergency Jewelry, Beach Culture, and The Funky Yield Signs

Whenever you visit a house where you have never been, you become aware of sounds.  They're not normally either minatory or even identifiable, and eventually they fade into the background.  In this short visit, they didn't have time to fade, and I kept listening to funny peeping noises that I swore were her cellphone and she thought were from mine.  There were strange heating system noises, unidentifiable scrapes, and the gentle susurrus of what may have been "the wind" but which I could swear was the sound of scurrying, flat-sided, jigsaw puzzle pieces.

As for the rest, I'll be going through the photos and extend this report.  Eventually.

NP:  "Nickel Romeo" - The Bangles

Richard Factor

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