24 October 2022
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I Am Easily Distracted

For example, and as I recently related, while being transported through lush Italian countryside I had never seen, I was busy interpreting road signs. Although our Italy trip promised food and wine, if you're in Italy you can't swing a cat without hitting a cathedral. On one day's agenda was a visit to The Sanctuary of Vicoforte in Mondavi which, we were told (and reminded and reminded and reminded) had "the world's largest elliptical dome." My thoughts, unbidden, turned to orbital mechanics and had to be unwillingly dragged to earth.

The Sanctuary looks like this.
It's filled with marvelous and beautiful arts and artifacts, all of which are far more impressive in person, and which I would photographically share if this were a coffee table book instead of the blog of a semi-philistine.

I'm capable of gawkage, and would have done so along with the rest of our party, but the docent, for better or worse, started mentioning technical details. When touring religious sites, one rarely hears the terms "major axis" and "minor axis," and as the docent launched into statistics, ages, materials, and geology, I kind of lost track of the arts. Her final mistake was discussing the catwalk around the bottom portion of the dome, which could be reached by stairs, flexibility, and indifference to one's continued existence*. Leaving most of our party to remain on the floor, the more intrepid donned hard hats and crawled into the interstices, climbed some very cramped stairs, vaulted the steel beam holding the building together, and emerged on the narrow catwalk.

Look at all the test gear on the catwalk! Strain gauges everywhere! Data gathering and transmission gear surrounding the building! Apparently it's sent to a university nearby, where no-doubt-earnest grad students will be monitoring the data and writing reports and dissertations until...

Well, there's probably no "until." The structure is pretty stable, or at least we were assured it is.

Despite my distraction by the science bits, I really enjoyed the experience. One of our group broke into song (Ave Maria) while on the catwalk, and I was later told it sounded wonderful on the floor where the rest of our party heard it. So add "great acoustics" to the other achievements of the architects of the Sanctuary.

I Know You're Wondering

This, the world's largest elliptical dome, has a major axis of 118 feet and a minor axis of 82 feet. I was surprised to hear that statistic from the docent; perhaps the non-metric measurements were a sop to the American tourists. Another factoid: When the dome was finished, the architect had to remove the scaffolding himself because the more sensible workers believed the structure would collapse.

An Argument for More Icing

One of our long-term employees retired about a month ago. I petitioned our Chief Victualizer** to order what I call an "icing cake." I discovered this phenomenon at, of all places, Whole Foods, when I bought an alleged cake which had a thick coating of icing with a couple of minimal layers of cake to hold it together. The retirement icing cake was quite large and fullty in accordance with my request. I've been feasting on its remains for almost a week and have this observation: The (minimal) underlying cake is stale but the icing has remained perfect. I think we need a buttercream cheer!

* My first triple-zeugma, perhaps.
** You probably didn't know we even had a Chief Victualizer. But I am authorized by our Human Resources department to bestow ancillary titles.

Richard Factor


"Chilling of the Evening"

Arlo Guthrie



Today I cheat. Misha the product was just introduced at the Audio Engineering Society Convention this week. Already I have the shirt and you don't.

Misha is a music synthesizer. But instead of a keyboard, it has buttons and a tiny display and many inputs and outputs and MIDI and is designed for Eurorack. If I were a musician I would say a lot more. I'm not, though, and I'm still trying to understand it. Those who do understand it seem to be raving.

Why don't I leave it to the web site to say a few words and pictures?

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