Tuesday Time-Waster: 50-state road trip

I like road trips, and I’ve long wanted to do one that hits every one of the continental U.S. states. I never actually sat down and mapped it out (though I did do most of the mapping on this road trip from San Francisco to Chicago). Well, now I don’t have to, because a Michigan State nerd/awesome person/student did it for me!

Yes, that’s right: This map has a stop in every one of the lower 48 states, for a total of 13,699 miles. Bonus: Every stop is a landmark. (However, Carhenge in Nebraska is worth a stop, if you ask me.) Here’s the link to just the map, and you can click on each location.

And, last but not least, here’s the original blog post, with all of the nerdy details. He even released the Python code if you a) know how to use it, and b) aren’t satisfied with Google maps.

Hat tip to Lorelei for the link.

Posted in Tuesday Time-Waster | Leave a comment

Tuesday Time-Waster: St. Patrick’s Day

Since St. Patrick’s Day happens to fall on a Tuesday, I’m subjecting you to some greenaplooza. (That’s a word, I’m sure.)

First, there was this fantastic text this morning from Michaela:

Then there was Google, which was cute and linked to this street view collection of Ireland:

And then there is my own Instagram post, showing off my earrings, sweater, toenails and emoji usage skills:

You can go here for all of my Instagram posts. Maybe that’s my official Tuesday Time-Waster 11:11 a.m. link for the day?

And here is one more bonus photo, as proof that I’m always ridiculous on March 17 (and every day, for that matter). When one is in Portland with a friend’s kid, one does this:

Posted in Tuesday Time-Waster | Leave a comment

Blood donation

On March 15, 2006, a British guy named Andy slipped away from the world, just three months and one week after he’d been diagnosed with cancer. He was 36 years old.

I knew him better as “Beasty,” a nickname he’d given when he wandered into an Internet chat room in 2000. He was a nerdy computer guy who liked corny jokes and was very proud of all the blood he’d donated over the years. His cancer diagnosis put an end to his blood donations, and I told myself I would finally get around to donating blood in his honor. Excuse followed excuse — how I had a weird reaction to a shot (couldn’t breathe, my hands froze up like claws, happy birthday to me); how my blood pressure is borderline low so they might not accept me anyway; how I couldn’t do it X amount of days before a long run or race. Years passed as I continued to avoid it.

Then, this year when I was coming up with my list of 36 things to do, something made me think, “donate blood.” I looked up Beasty’s online journal, which is still there in “memorial” status, and I looked up the newspaper column I wrote upon his death. It suddenly hit me: He was 36 years old when he died. 36. I went to my drafted list, scrolled to the bottom spots that were still empty, and typed “Donate blood” in number 36.

In February, when I started my “36 things in a year” attempt, I went to the American Red Cross site, found a local donation center, and learned that they were closed on the anniversary of Beasty’s death, March 15, a Sunday. But they were open March 14, which also happened to be Pi Day (a cool one at that: 3/14/15 at 9:26:53 made up the first digits of pi). Beasty would have gotten such a kick out of that! I looked at my calendar, knowing it might be a bit of a risk due to training for my first century bike ride, but I signed up anyway.

Yesterday found me in the Red Cross center closest to my house, where they apparently don’t get a lot of first-time donors. I went into a room with an employee and answered a bunch of questions to screen my blood — nope, I’m not a needle user and haven’t lived overseas, etc. They pricked my finger and tested to make sure my hemoglobin levels were ok — nope, I’m not anemic and my iron levels are fine. So then I went out into the main room where the lady put me in a reclining chair and pondered my veins. And then she called over the most senior employee for help.

I’m often the “problem patient” and this was no exception, as they tried to find a vein. They did find one, and I looked away as they poked the needle in my arm. It hurt but really wasn’t bad at all. It took awhile for them to get the blood, and they readjusted the needle several times (ouch) in an attempt to get it to flow faster. I’d read that it takes 8-10 minutes, but at eight minutes I was only halfway done. The head lady said they have a limit of 20 minutes, due to clotting worries. Fortunately, I was done in about 15 minutes.

They put a cold wet cloth on my head, which was "preventative" because I'd mentioned that I often get dizzy if I stand up too fast.

They bandaged me up (that was pretty minimal, thankfully), brought me juice and made me sit there for about 10 minutes before going over to the food/drink area. I was supposed to eat something there and sit for another 15 minutes. I forced down a cookie thing and finally left, realizing it was 80 degrees outside, much warmer in my car, but I didn’t run the air-conditioning. I also realized I had no energy to stop at the grocery store as I’d planned. Walking up my stairs was exhausting. That was the beginning.

As my poor friends on Twitter and Facebook and texting know, I spent the afternoon and evening on my couch, griping about feeling woozy and about the blood pounding and swirling in my head and ears. I knew I needed to eat, but I could not find the energy to cook the dinner I’d planned — and it didn’t help that I was so NOT hungry to the point of almost feeling sick. I kept drinking water as instructed, and I actually was not dehydrated for once. But I guess losing about 10 percent of my blood sent my body into a bit of shock. (The human body contains 10-12 pints of blood and one pint is taken during donation, so it’s 8.5 to 10 percent total.) When I remembered that I needed to put clean sheets back on my bed, I actually started crying because it seemed like an insurmountable task. I finally forced myself to open and heat a can of soup, since it was 82 degrees in my apartment but I was still cold and at least soup would be warm. That helped quite a bit. I went to bed at 9, slept soundly until 3:10, then managed to get back to sleep until 6:30. That also helped. As I type this at 10 a.m., I’m doing a lot better. I took myself to Panera and bought food, so I would actually eat it despite not feeling hungry. I don’t feel as lethargic, so I think I have enough strength to go run an errand soon.

For those who have not donated, I still think you should do it if you are able. If you’re an endurance athlete, be prepared to lose some training time. Don’t plan to exercise the first 24 hours after donating, and also know that it takes two to six weeks for the body’s blood to be fully replenished. I read that a lot of athletes only donate in the late fall/early winter after their racing season has ended, and I think that’s a good plan. I didn’t want to wait that long to cross it off my list, and I also thought it would be neat to do it on the anniversary of my friend’s death.

The "I donated" badge.

After my experience, I won’t donate again until after I’m done with endurance events for the season. I will also be better prepared, with a food plan ready and knowing I’ll be useless and upset for the rest of the day. Honestly, I’m not in a hurry to donate again, because of terribly how I felt. HOWEVER, I still firmly believe that more of us should donate. Blood saves lives, and we all know people who’ve been saved with blood. It’s not even a political matter such as deciding whether to donate money to a cause: Even the richest, most successful people cannot buy their way out of a car wreck or a health emergency that requires blood to save their lives. A friend of mine, whom I’ve know for three decades, is alive today because of two organ transplants, which he could not have prevented. Google tells me that he went through at least 20 to 40 units of blood for just the liver transplant — and my donation was just one unit. One car wreck victim can require dozens of units of blood, such as this guy who went on to become an Ironman finisher. Imagine your child, parent, significant other or friend, lying in an emergency room bed, hooked up to a machine that is pumping blood into them to keep them alive until surgeons can stop the cause of the bleeding. That’s made possible because of donors.

And that’s why my friend Beasty donated. Just as he actually liked helping clueless people figure out how to operate a computer program, he liked donating blood. It was something he could do for others. In February 2006, just a few weeks before he died, he wrote about being informed that his cancer treatments meant he wouldn’t be able to blood again: “I think I did my bit, though, by giving 34 units while I still could. Being a rare blood group too, I’ll be missed. I was hoping to get to at least a hundred in my useful lifetime, but, alas, it is not to be. Annoying, but life goes on. I, for one, intend to make sure it does.”

Beasty, yesterday was for you. Between the two of us, you’ve now donated 35 units.

Beasty, in memoriam.

That newspaper column I wrote is linked here, though the date is wrong — that’s the date I contacted them and asked them to put it back online because the old link had stopped working. In case that link dies again, I’m putting the full text here.

An e-mail brings jarring news about ’Net friend

The e-mail arrived last week. It was from my closest friend, and the subject line contained one name. A sense of dread filled me.

As quickly as the thought came, I dismissed it. It must simply be an update on our mutual friend who was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago.

It was an update of the worst kind. At age 36, Andy had died of cancer.

As another mutual friend put it best, he wasn’t supposed to die. He was supposed to beat the disease. After all, I know three people who recently conquered cancer, and two of them were older than he.

Andy was a typical “British bloke.” He’d spent his life in England, unless he was off doing things like scuba diving off the coast of Florida or grilling burgers in San Diego.

He’d had a few career switches, for a time working in customs and occasionally seeing people busted for trying to smuggle drugs. But one of his passions was computers, so that was a big part of his life.

When I met him six years ago, I knew him as “Beasty.” He had wandered into an Internet community I called home, and before long he was making daily appearances. Like most of us, he used a different name online.

His name, though, belied his personality. For some reason I don’t quite understand, Beasty didn’t mind giving computer help to the most ungrateful, clueless people — and on his own time, too.

If complete strangers complained about a computer problem, he’d instantly offer to help.

But that was Beasty, the carefree guy who once got a kick out of recording words on his computer and sending them to me, simply because I liked his British accent.

Many people are scared of the online world. When they hear I’ve met “Internet friends” in person, they’re shocked.

Even one computer-savvy friend of mine recently remarked that the crazed, scary people online outnumber the decent people.

I challenge that assumption. We only hear about the psychotic situations; people like Beasty don’t make headline news.

As in all walks of life, there are crazed, scary people. We’ve all heard of horrible abductions and rapes and murders.

The Internet world is just like the physical world. Sure, you can’t see the people you meet, but that’s sometimes an advantage. When I meet people online, I’m not distracted by the surface appearance. I look deeper, and I keep looking until I find the real person.

When Beasty first wandered into that Internet community, I had no idea he was a blond-haired, blue-eyed guy with an intriguing accent. I didn’t know his age or marital status.

But I did learn those things later. Like many other people I’ve met online, I gradually got to know Beasty, eventually coming to know him by both his online and real names.

When he attended one of our annual gatherings in San Diego and we met in person, Beasty was how I’d thought he would be. What none of us had expected was for him to voluntarily take over the barbecue duties and continue cooking until there was food for more than two dozen hungry people. He loved doing it, too, and got a kick out of the fact that he’d traveled all that way to grill burgers

Over the years, people come and go from our lives. But Beasty made an effort not to lose track of people. Every year, he’d send me a birthday greeting, one time with the news that I now share a birthday with one of his closest friend’s babies.

When he was diagnosed last year with Deep Vein Thrombosis, we wished him well and didn’t worry too much. After all, he was so upbeat that it didn’t matter.

(According to the National Institutes of Health, DVT is a condition when a blood clot forms in a leg. It occasionally happens to people who take very long airline flights that require sitting for hours on end. Beasty didn’t know why he got it, but figured it was hereditary.)

For Beasty, one of the biggest concerns about having DVT was that he had to go on medication that would halt his blood donations. He’d donated 34 units by last year, and had wanted to reach some kind of record.

Then in the fall he went to the doctor to find out why he had a lump in his neck. In December, tests revealed it was cancerous.

His upbeat British humor dominated every new medical event, and Beasty resigned himself to radiation and chemotherapy — even apologizing in advance that he might miss my recent birthday because he’d be in the hospital then.

He kept us updated, and in late January came this line: “Well, I get to be a bigger enigma to the medical profession every day it seems.” In the lighthearted update, he also mentioned that he had diabetic symptoms and had developed a brain tumor.

After finishing radiation in mid-February, Beasty knew his blood donor days were over. “Annoying, but life goes on. I, for one, intend to make sure it does,” he told us in an update.

Then, on March 10, he awoke to find that his leg was’t working. None of his Internet friends, myself included, knew that would be his last message to us.

Five days later, he died.

His updates had come by Internet, and news of his death also came that way. It may sound impersonal, but in a way it’s not. The Internet has given all of his grieving friends a place to gather and remember him.

The tributes have been steady since we got word of Beasty’s death. Many, like myself, have been going through computer archives, recalling conversations and digging up photos to pass on to his grateful family members.

In each photo, there is Andy’s grinning face, a tribute to the person who was as genuine in person as he was online.

Layla Bohm is the assistant city editor and police/courts reporter at the Lodi News-Sentinel.
Posted in 36 Things | 2 Comments

PostSecret revisited

More than four years ago, I saw a PostSecret event, which is kind of like a cross between a book tour and a speech. If you haven’t heard of PostSecret, go look at it and then come back here for a related link, as well as an explanation for why I’m posting about it (again).

Did you look at the site? Okay, welcome back. Now you can go read my old explanation of what it is and the time I saw the author speak at a PostSecret event in October 2010. That was an event at University of the Pacific in Stockton (thanks to Patrick for the ticket, and to David for giving me one of the books), and the auditorium was full. I guess there’s something intriguing about the hundreds of thousands of anonymous postcards people send to a random guy in Maryland. It’s a strange, unique, fascinating mix of humor, sadness, reality and make-believe.

And now we come to the point of this blog post, and what I want you to think about for a few minutes on this Tuesday. The PostSecret project has raised more than $1 million for suicide prevention, and the author’s ongoing hope is that people can feel relief by letting go of their secrets — enough relief that they want to keep living. PostSecret is affiliated with this extensive suicide prevention hotline directory, also with the hope that it will be a place for someone to get relief, rather than taking their own life.

I’m posting this because last Sunday marked one year since a young woman ended her life. And in a few days I will be remembering how it was exactly one year since I drove to the memorial service that was so very beautiful, and which caused a friend to say, “This should have been her wedding.” Her parents have changed forever, that much is painfully and obviously clear. I cannot begin to imagine the torture and agony they still face. I don’t know if PostSecret or a suicide hotline would have helped her at all. But I do know that if somewhere, someday, one person reads this or any other tribute to her and decides to seek help, it will be a ray of hope that she did not die in vain. Her parents may never know, I may never know, but the person who seeks help WILL know. If that person is you, make the anonymous call for help. And know that you can always talk to, text or email me. (I don’t have my number online due to spammers, but I’m happy to give it to you. layla@ thesmudge.com without the space.)

Posted in Tuesday Time-Waster | 1 Comment

Six years later

It’s been six years since that Wednesday afternoon on the second floor of the Stockton courthouse. I’d been reporting on a weird murder case for more than two years, and it was all coming to a head, with the suspect testifying in his own defense. And then, in seconds, he nearly killed the judge before he was shot to death. I wrote about it for the local newspaper, just as I had written about the entire case. But there are so many other little things that I could not write about anywhere — some because I swore sources to anonymity and some because nobody would understand.

Six years later, I just sat here — also on a Wednesday — and wrote a paragraph trying to vaguely outline some of the things I could not write about. And then I deleted the paragraph, because it would make no sense. I don’t mind talking about the experience, and I’ve kept a couple college classes and a Rotary club riveted when I gave speeches about it. (I miss those kinds of things, actually.) And sometimes I tell people a bit more of the stuff I can’t say publicly, though always protecting the people I swore to secrecy. But what I still can’t put into words is WHY I still think of March 4 every year as the day approaches, and WHY I still spot and hate Chrysler 300 cars, and WHY I still have a lot of indignation toward some people involved in the case. Yesterday I got out the 19-page report issued by the District Attorney’s office many months later, and I can’t explain WHY I still haven’t read it, other than to skim it and see my name in a footnote.

I do know that the incident made me begin thinking, “Life is short; live it.” Three months after the courtroom attack, I witnessed a horrific car wreck that killed a couple, and I later met their family members. The mantra kept repeating itself. It took another year before I finally made drastic changes to escape from the unhappy rut that had become my life. But it all started at 2:10 p.m. on March 4, 2009. That much I do know.


Here, in its entirety, is my first-person account of that day. (I also wrote a main news story on the events in the courtroom. This was from my own view.)

Crime reporter becomes witness to a deadly courthouse shooting

Posted: Wednesday, March 4, 2009 10:00 pm

I heard gunshots. Someone in a seat near me said, “Get down!”

I clutched my white laptop computer to my chest and found myself crouching on the floor.

This wasn’t supposed to be happening in a Stockton courtroom.

Normally the squeaking court chairs are the loudest things in the room, but this time I never noticed.

I’d heard gunshots, close, distinct.

The defendant I’d watched periodically in court for the past two years was dead.

The judge he’d attacked was alive.

I’ve written about countless shootings before. Now I had witnessed one, maybe 30 feet way.

The whole murder case had been a bit surreal even before the suspect lunged, before the shots were fired.

David Paradiso was 27 on that day in 2006 when he and a young woman named Eileen Pelt were riding in the back seat of his mother’s car in Lodi. Suddenly he shoved a large knife through her neck.

He told his mother to keep driving, and she did.

A couple hours later, he ditched the victim’s body. His mom went to police, and they caught up, which triggered a high-speed chase before he was stopped.

I learned of the killing the next morning. I would ultimately drive through pouring rain to various places in Roseville and Grass Valley, finding friends and family members of the victim.

The case wound its way through the court system. Wednesday morning saw me driving in light rain to another day of Paradiso’s murder trial.

He’d testified in his own defense the previous day but hadn’t finished, and I wanted to hear his reasoning on some things.

The morning was uneventful. I sat in the second-floor courtroom with my laptop on my knees, listening to a doctor talk about methamphetamine, which Paradiso had consumed at various times during his 29 years.

Around 2 p.m., after the lunch break, it was time for Paradiso to return to the witness stand to face the prosecutor.

I’d noticed today that Paradiso, compact with short brown hair, wasn’t wearing a suit jacket and tie, as he did when he testified the previous day.

Instead, he wore a blue and white striped long-sleeved shirt, with the top button open.

Because of various court rulings over the years, defendants don’t wear shackles and jail clothing because it could make the jurors think he’s guilty. Instead, prisoners wear a leg brace that keeps them from running.

When it was his turn to testify, he stood and paused briefly, looking down at a pair of wireless reading glasses he’d worn a couple times during trial. He picked them up, then left them at the defense table.

It was 2:03 p.m. when Paradiso went to the witness stand, which is about three feet from the judge’s right-hand side.

His testimony the previous day had been in a monotone. He hadn’t denied killing Pelt, instead saying he was paranoid and that she’d made some sort of threat.

But this time, when the prosecutor asked why he killed the young woman, Paradiso had a different response:

“‘Cause she deserved it.”

Pelt’s family members, sitting behind me, gasped. They didn’t get any calmer when Paradiso made an derogatory comment about the victim, either.

But it was his mother, Debra Paradiso, who was the loudest. When she testified earlier in the trial, adjustments had to be made to the microphone so she could be heard. This time, everyone heard her.

She shouted that her son hadn’t wanted to testify.

A bailiff told her to leave, and she began to, while sobbing and still yelling. A bailiff spoke into his shoulder radio calling for back-up. A sergeant was soon standing in the doorway.

Judge Cinda Fox told the jurors to leave with a bailiff for a recess.

Then I heard a Paradiso family friend shouted, “No, David, stop!”

There, at the witness stand, Paradiso was no longer sitting.

He was standing.

Even as I write this some nine hours later, it feels as though my mind was a camera with a slow shutter. At one moment, Paradiso was standing with arms at his sides.

In the next moment, he was standing behind and over the judge, his right arm around her as if to stab her. Though I would be asked many times if I saw something in his hand, I still don’t know.

Something very wrong was happening in the courtroom, and my brain almost didn’t want to process it.

I knew people were near him, and I saw Detective Eric Bradley’s bald head.

Bradley, an Air Force veteran, is more than six feet tall. After working the crime and courts beat for more than six years, I recognize Lodi cops, and Bradley is no exception.

When I heard three shots ring out, I didn’t see a gun but I knew Bradley was the shooter.

I think a bailiff was right there, but something about Bradley’s arm position told me he was the one.

My mind was trying to catch up. When Paradiso had stood, some part of my brain said that he’d be stopped. When he went for the judge, I still thought it wouldn’t really happen.

I knew the shots were real. I was sure they were from Bradley’s gun. And I didn’t see how Paradiso could get hold of a gun.

But when someone near me said “Get down!” and I saw people ducking, I thought it might not be over.

Could more shots be coming? Could Paradiso, with his very lengthy criminal record that included assaulting officers, keep going?

That’s how I found myself crouching by my seat.

It was only for a moment, and I was still trying to see what had happened, but at that point in time, the survival instinct had beaten out my innate curiosity.

Then someone was telling me to get out. I managed to grab my purse and was still holding tightly to my laptop. I still couldn’t see the judge.

Out in the hallway, officers were pouring out of nearby doorways with guns drawn. A bailiff soon yelled “Code 4,” meaning “all clear.”

I knew then that Paradiso was dead.

Paramedics rushed in, along with a host of other officers, both uniformed and in plain clothes.

Then I heard an officer saying, “She’s asking for her mother.”

Judge Fox’s mother had been watching the trial, and I somehow knew that was who the officer meant.

In other words, the judge was alive.

The crime scene was soon widened, as the courthouse was locked down. The judge was wheeled out on a stretcher, alert and talking. A juror followed, also alert, and I would later learn that he’d had chest pains.

In the midst of the chaos, I’d called my editor’s cell phone. He answered, and I don’t think he was expecting to hear me begin blurting things like, “The defendant attacked the judge. Shots fired. Paradiso. The judge is Cinda Fox.”

Then I found myself on the other end of where most reporters operate: Attorneys were asking me what had happened. I’m usually pestering them about cases, but now I was doing the talking.

My cell phone was buzzing with text messages. An attorney on another floor wanted to know if I was OK. A friend of mine was upstairs and had felt the floor shake from the gunshots.

They knew what courtroom I was in, and they didn’t know where I was or what had happened. It sometimes took me a while to reply, and now I realize that it was probably a bit agonizing to wait for my response letting them know I was OK.

I talked to people, I tried to update my poor editor, I answered my phone to hear a TV reporter on the other end.

Though I was fine, I soon realized my stomach was in knots – a feeling I’ve heard but never really understood until now. I haven’t been physically sick in at least 15 years (my running buddies think it’s unfair that I can eat anything before and during a run). I didn’t get sick this time either, but this was a weird sensation.

I knew, even before investigators confirmed it, that I’d be a witness they wanted to interview.

Reporters are the ones who ask questions, and they don’t want to compromise their own stories. But at the same time, I’ve talked to far too many family members who never get full answers because witnesses couldn’t be found.

I would want the same thing if the roles were reversed.

I didn’t have a lot of choice, anyway, and before too long I found myself in a conference room on the fifth floor of the courthouse, along with a fellow reporter and a handful of prosecutors who’d witnessed the shooting.

We waited. Water arrived, for which I was extremely grateful. (My water bottle, as well as my umbrella, are still in the sealed courtroom.) I told my editor that pizza had been mentioned, but I better not be waiting that long.

I was wrong. Pizza came, was eaten, and then more pizza came. I didn’t want to eat anything, but I did take another bottle of water.

Finally, at 7:25 p.m., three investigators took me to another room and recorded my statement about what I’d seen. I’ve seen enough trial testimony to know they want details, and they want me to describe things, rather than make motions with my hands.

They had me draw a diagram of the courtroom, despite my insistence that my mother is an artist while I most certainly am not.

After an hour and five minutes, they’d finally asked enough questions.

I was free to go.

By then, my car was locked in a Stockton parking garage. Someone finally got it open, and I began the 16-mile drive back to Lodi.

I found myself making sure my car doors were locked. I didn’t want to be near other cars on the dark highway. I knew I was just as safe as any other time, but my head was playing games with me.

Finally, I got back to Lodi, after a two-minute delay for a train.

I was home. I was fine. But my mind was still going at warp speed.

It still is.

Posted in Other | 1 Comment

Tuesday Time-Waster: Running cartoon

My friend Marc recently texted me: “You inspired this one” with a link to this comic he drew. No, I’m not posting the picture here; you’ll have to click to follow the link. But it’s certainly worth five seconds of your time on a Tuesday.

That really did happen: I dropped my car off at the shop, got a ride to work, then ran a little more than seven miles back after work. The guys at the shop hadn’t believed I was being literal when I told them I would just “run back” in the evening. They also didn’t know what to make of the fact that a girl was dripping sweat all over the place while looking at the ESPN app on her phone to see the World Series score — before she asked if her car was fixed. For the record, the Boston Red Sox went on to win that night and my car was all better. A win all around.

Posted in Running, Tuesday Time-Waster | Leave a comment

Tuesday Time-Waster: 3D sculpture video

It doesn’t matter if you’re interested (or can understand, unlike me) the math behind this video — it’s still really cool.

Here’s the site where I found it, and which explains some of the math behind it. Fibonaci’s Sequence for easy 11:11 a.m. reading, anyone??

Posted in Tuesday Time-Waster | Leave a comment

Tuesday Time-Waster: Animal group names

You probably know that the English language has a large number of words for groups of animals. It’s a “flock of sheep,” a “herd of cattle,” and the fun “murder of crows.” I tend to use the word “herd” for fun, because “a group of bicyclists” just isn’t as silly as “a herd of cyclists.”

However, did you know that there are many, many other words for animal groups? I present to you, courtesy of my friend Matt, this rather extensive list. I love the mental images of an “army of caterpillars” and a “mob of emus.” A “band of coyotes” sounds like a wayward musical act, and perhaps they should join forces with a “cast of falcons.” But the funny thing is that I don’t actually know some of the animals on this list, either. Until now, I never knew that “Look, there’s a fling of dunlins!” is a legitimate sentence.

And, one more thing before I stop rambling on like a word nerd: Follow that link up there and scroll to the bottom of the page, beneath the table. You’re welcome.

Posted in Tuesday Time-Waster | Leave a comment

Tuesday Time-Waster: Found sisters

Even though these stories hit me hard and personally every time, I’m a sucker for accounts of people who find long-lost family members. This one, about a man longing to see his triplet sisters, is no exception. “I looked for you in every crowd.”

And the ending, well, it just shows that you never know how long your life will last.

Posted in Tuesday Time-Waster | Leave a comment

Three dozen things

In early fall 2014, I was looking at my “goals” for the year and lamenting the fact that I would fail to meet most of them. I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I put some attainable/bucket list things on the list, like seeing more sites near where I live or taking an adult swimming lesson?” Something made me think of my friend Jen, who had done a bunch of “30 before 30″ things leading up to her 30th birthday. She got a tattoo, pierced her nose, etc — things that were attainable. My 2014 goal list had included things like “run 1,500 miles,” which I couldn’t do because I was injured.

So I opened the notes app on my phone and typed, “See Alcatraz at night.” Then: “Invest in the stock market.” And the third one was: “Take a swimming lesson.” They’re things I can actually do, and things I want to do (well, I dread the swimming one a bit, but it would be good for me). Then I got the idea to start this adventure in February, and I named the note “Three Dozen Things.”

Over the next few months, I kept adding to the list. I deleted and edited lines — “make kale chips” became “try three dozen new recipes,” which I later limited to “dinner recipes.” As weeks and months rolled by, my list lingered around 20 items and I began to think I was being too ambitious and should just scrap the whole thing. Then I came across a pre-Christmas sale that just so happened to be part of an item on my list: “Subscribe to Outside magazine and read every issue for a year.” The first issue would arrive right around the time my list would officially start. One minute and $10 later, I had committed to it.

And so, for the first time since I unlinked and revamped most of my website more than four years ago, I made a change. The new section, 36 Things, is right there in plain sight for all to see. Every line is waiting to see if I can accomplish it.

Because it’s always fun to look back and see how ridiculous I was, here are a few predictions as of February 2015. I suspect the hardest item on the list will be “Kick my snooze button habit.” I think “Try three dozen new dinner recipes” will make me curse when I realize an egg scramble and stir fry don’t count (since they’re not new), and “Cook a turkey” may involve the fire department. Either the turkey or “Eat in a nice restaurant by myself” will be the most awkward. “Knit a scarf” will probably invoke memories of childhood frustration. At some point, I’ll probably have to spend a chunk of time reading several back issues of Outside magazine all at once in order to catch up. The same will hopefully not be true with losing 15 pounds, or else I’ll be on a water-only diet next January. The century bike ride will hopefully be a little redemption from all of 2014′s unfinished business, the piano song memorization will probably be a struggle, and blood donation may ultimately wind up being the most meaningful — and 14 years overdue.

At any rate, here goes the adventure. As friends said last weekend when I told them about it, I might very well be insane.

Posted in 36 Things, Goals | 4 Comments