Friday, April 19, 2024

7 Quick Takes about Heading Into Obscurity, Throwing Rocks, and Adventures in Engineering

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?


This week my dad and stepmom are here visiting. We've lived here long enough that we've already taken them to all the usual tourist destinations, so we've been digging into some slightly more obscure ones for this visit. 


One of them was a museum of religious iconography specific to the Eastern Orthodox Church, which has actually been on my list of paces to visit for a while because (1) I like looking at art and (2) I love learning about other religions. 

At the museum, I learned several apocryphal stories I'd never heard of before. I also did a lot of Googling to understand what I was looking at, including (but not limited to) the time I encountered an icon entitled "The Three-Handed Mother of God." 

Toward the end, the 7- and 10-year-olds were getting bored out of their minds, but we took them to a park afterward to let them burn off some energy so a good time was had by all.


About once or twice a year, Phillip gets the urge to go to the ocean for a polar bear swim, so we decided to do that this week. 

I didn't go in the water because I'm already cold all the time anyway (my daily life from October to mid-April feels like one long polar bear swim) but Phillip and all the kids at least waded in the water and walked around on the various sandbars at low tide.

It was pretty shallow at the beach with all the sandbars, however, so for the sake of our insane family members we drove to another nearby beach for a proper dip in the ocean. 

The water was so cold it made one of the kids cry, and even Phillip only stayed in for about five seconds. But it sure was pretty.


We hosted the three sons of one of my church friends for the afternoon while she finished a paper for college. It was nice outside so they played in the yard most of the day, and then we took a walk and stopped to throw rocks in the creek behind our house.

Boys and rocks, man. I just don't get it.

With all the millennia of history of boys existing, how are there still free-flowing bodies of water on the earth? Why are they not all filled up with rocks? 

In all my years of parenting I've never been able to pass by a river, lake, or stream without my boys stopping to throw rocks in (yes, girls do it too but they get bored and move on in a more timely fashion). 


My own taste in reading non-fiction was recently described to me this way: "You don't like general histories, you like specific histories." That is, of course, the polite way to say "You read history books about really niche stuff that normal people don't know or really care about."

It's true. I get bored with history at the macro level, but if you look at one specific thing and how it's evolved through the years, now that is interesting to me. Off the top of my head, I can recall enjoying "specific histories" of saltchildhoodswear words (language warning on this one, obviously), marriagehuman cadavers, the Hope Diamond, and most recently, hair removal.

Yes, hair removal.

I just finished Plucked: A History of Hair Removal and it was actually fascinating. Where else would I have learned that X-ray hair removal salons were actually big business in the 1920s or that women used "liquid stockings" (i.e: leg makeup with a fake seam drawn up the back in eyeliner pencil) during the nylon shortages of WWII?

The problem is, I'm a little embarrassed to answer honestly when someone asks me "What have you been reading recently?" so unless they're a really good friend, I usually give them the title of the second book I've been reading.


I'm also reading the book Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep. Ironically, this is the book I pick up when I wake up in the middle of the night and can't go back to sleep.

Which, by the way, I learned is completely normal. In the absence of artificial light, people will naturally have a "first sleep" after sundown, wake up for an hour or two after midnight, and then have a "second sleep" until the sun comes up. Without interference from electricity, the Internet, and Netflix, normal sleep is broken up into two roughly equal blocks.

I don't have an insomnia problem, I'm just really in touch with the hardwired rhythms of my interior clock handed down to me by my earliest human ancestors.


Phillip works in research and development for building materials, and he recently went on a work trip to see the manufacturing facilities at one of the plants that makes his company's products.

As they were inspecting the facilities, they had a question about the large walk-in oven that was used to dry the paint on the product. But due to safety regulations, they were unable to go inside for a closer look without a special "confined space" permit that would cost both time and money to obtain. 

So they did what any group of PhD engineers would do, and got around it by duct taping a webcam to the end of a broom handle and sticking it through the doorway. The solution is a lot like Phillip himself, actually, as brilliant as it is ridiculous.

Click to Share:
Unremarkable Files


Unknown said...

Polar bear swim?? Now that is nuts! Totally agree about rocks and boys. Goes in tandem with jumping in puddles. We were following a teen age boy driving in our ward to church. We watched him swerve to make sure he hit the puddle. Of course.

Catherine said...

My great aunt and her sisters all did the "liquid stockings" thing during WW2, except they couldn't afford the actual product so they used gravy browning (a kind of British seasoning powder). The problem was that dogs kept trying to lick it off their legs...