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Rockets Without Shells

Sunday, March 15, 2009

10:32AM - A Hero for Sometime

In the 1913 Tour de France, a racer named Eugène Christophe was in second place late in the race when he broke the fork of his bike. He walked 10km with his bike on his shoulder, sobbing about his misfortune, until a girl in the town of Ste. Marie de Campan led him to the local blacksmith. As racers were responsible for their own repairs, the rival teams wouldn't allow Lecomte, the smith, to make the repair. Instead, the blacksmith coached Eugène through the fixing of his fork at the forge. On this new fork, he finished the race, ending up in seventh. My favorite part of the story, though, is that he was penalized for allowing a boy to work the bellows for him while he was at the forge. When I first saw the story, it said he was disqualified for it, which amazed me, but the truth is that he was penalized ten minutes, which was later reduced to three. Given that his walking and forging took him about five hours, that seems to be a slap on the wrist, though I don't know why they argued about the seven minutes. I respect the dedication to the rules exhibited by all sides. Boo to 1913 metallurgy, though.

(7 Liftoffs | Launch a rocket)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

10:29AM - Obama takes over!

Have you seen this:

Some Japanese company made a 12" or so tall Barack Obama toy. That's fine and all, but go look at the photo shoot of it. I can't decide if I prefer Barack Obama whipping a gun out of his coat or napping at a solitary picnic. The disembodied hands are creepy, though.

(1 Liftoff | Launch a rocket)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

2:44PM

I've decided that I need a project, as I spend a lot of time spinning my wheels these days. I mean, there's a lot of interesting crap on the internet, but it's like reading a good magazine on ADD. It's a good time and all, but I'm not sure I get much out of it, save pie in the sky ideas I'll never follow through on. I've been interested a lot lately in breaking things I take for granted down into their parts, especially with regard to food. For instance, it has occurred to me that I can make an end run around the ethical horribleness of the meat processing industry (Fast Food Nation may not have been enough to sustain the ethical stand that was my vegetarianism, but man, industrialized meat sure is terrible.) and learn a useful skill, all while saving money, if I teach myself to break down a whole chicken into breasts, thighs, wings etc. (And get fodder for homemade stock, because that is supposed to be a wonderful thing too.) So I want to do things like that, and also spend more time baking bread, as that's one of those things I love doing and always intend to do more than I do. (I'm also looking at you, exercise!)

The point is this: I think I want to get into curing meat. I want to make my own bacon, I want to stuff my own sausage. I might raise and slaughter a pig with my boss this coming year. I'm going to get the book I have in mind today. Because why not pick up a new, delicious, not particularly healthy project that could end in botulism?

(5 Liftoffs | Launch a rocket)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

10:49PM - Hey you in the glasses, I want you in the front!

So I think I'm going to try to update LJ at least sporatically again. I could look at my front page here and see how long it's been since I last posted, but that would just be embarrassing. (It's less than two years, but probably closer to that than one.) Anyway, I just friended Ben Birdsall on facebook, and I'm not sure how to feel about that. (He's the fourth Birdsall to whom I'm not related with whom I'm pseudofriends. He is from Switzerland, likes Vespas a lot, and paints, I think as a hobby.) I was thinking about first names earlier today, about how it ought to sort of seem like a betrayal the first time you meet someone with the same first name, and how if at all things would be different if everyone's first name had to be unique. (I know that some cultures actively try to create unique first names for their children, but this is totally alien to my experience.) I highly doubt he and I have the same middle name, but still, this feels like a tiny transgression.

In other news, it sort of snowed for the first time this year today. I'm biking to work these days (and consequently from work), so I noticed it during breakfast and was thrilled, before I put together that that meant my butt was going to get wet and cold on the commute. I really should get around to fenders on my bike. Still, I'm all for this. Winter really lasts about six months in Vermont, and I'm all for it for at least the first four. I'm seriously considering commuting by bike the whole way through. It's not too far, I like saving a bit of gas and it's a nice way to sort of kick start the active part of my day. I did it when I was in Switzerland, though that was on much more residential streets with slower cars. Mostly, I would have to invest in some good gloves, a balaclava, a lot of long underwear and some winter tires for my bike. (They do make them, though they're mostly imported from Scandinavia.) I dunno, I can't really justify it, but I don't really feel like I need to. I'll keep you posted, LJ.

Also: All the candid Barack Obama photos you wanted! Callie Shell was photographer to Al Gore, Howard Dean, and then Barack Obama since 2006. Not bad, eh?

(2 Liftoffs | Launch a rocket)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

11:01PM - Entre Chen et Loup

It's funny how I never keep track of looming endings unless there's a deadline attached. Tomorrow I'm flying out of LaGuardia to Camp, bidding farewell to Brooklyn, New York and New York. I filed a change of address at the post office, my tickets are bought, Yaron is subletting my place over the summer, I've spackled the holes I accidentally put in my walls, I've said most of the goodbyes I needed to say. In short, my affairs here will soon draw to a close. But it isn't real yet. I don't think it'll be real until I get picked up tomorrow night in Manchester NH by someone from camp, because I've done a little too much flying recently for hopping on a plane to be pregnant with meaning. Still, this is it. Goodbye teaching, goodbye New York. It's not you, it's me.

I've had three or four entries I've meant to post over the last month or so about the school year and my residence winding down, but they're gone now, off into the ether of thoughts not saved for posterity. While the facts of me being in a classroom are entirely comfortable to me now, even a loud and somewhat hostile one, it seems totally unreal that I've spent the last year teaching high school, education the youth of New York and drawing a steady paycheck (with pension plan!?). I guess I never intended for it to be a career, so dropping it seems fine, but where the hell am I going from here? The answer is Vermont, but who the hell knows what the specifics are beyond that. I have ideas, plenty of ideas, but life seems to happen in the space between ideas and what happens, between who you are today and your essential self.

I'm sorry Chicago, if there were a way to move to you and Vermont I would do it in a heartbeat. Vermont is the place I want to be, Chicago has the people I'd like to surround myself with, and in the end, at least right now, I want to move for the place, to be somewhere I'm excited to be. I moved to New York for people, and I don't regret it, but I never really got comfortable, never was able to let my guard down and just be. As I keep repeating, I want a yard, I want a pickup truck and I want a pooch, and so Vermont's winding roads are calling my name. Sara, Tom, Robyn, are you sure you don't want to move in the fall? We can get a big old house outside Burlington or White River Junction, something a little run down but beautiful. Robyn, you can get a job with a museum or a historical society, Sara and Tom, you can enroll at the Center for Cartoon Studies, because lord knows you could use another Masters. You'd have to learn how to drive, Sara, but I know your wrists could take it. We'd get a puppy to keep Pais company during the day.

So I'm off. If you want to reach me by phone, my cell phone is going to be out of commission for a while. I left my charger at home this past weekend, and my mom tried to mail it to camp, but may have mailed hers by accident. You can call camp at 802-333-3431; I'll be around evenings after 8:30 or so, but you can leave a message anytime. If you want to email me, please use the gmail account (bwbirdsall), because the Wesleyan one is getting reams of spam these days and I can manage that if I check it daily, but not if I check it weekly. I'll get it eventually if it's there, but not in any sort of timely manner. Finally, if you have any inclination do so, please send me a letter at

Ben Birdsall
2899 Lake Morey Rd.
Fairlee, Vt 05045

I promise I'll respond in kind, and I should still have some very nice paper on which to do so.

So goodbye for now. I'm off to go shoot rifles, build bonfires, swim in lakes, hike mountains, and generally reboot some parts of me that haven't spoken up in a while. I'll miss you, I'll be thinking of you, and I'll see you in September.

(Launch a rocket)

Monday, May 28, 2007

12:31PM - Who the hell am I kidding?

If I get a dog, I'm going to have to name it after a baseball player that amuses me, aren't I?

(4 Liftoffs | Launch a rocket)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

5:42PM

Listen, I know how it is. You, like all of us, from time to time find yourself at a barbeque, probably in the backyard of a friend or acquaintance. For me it was a birthday barbeque, but this is not important. At this event, you may find yourself with a bottle of beer in your hand and no readily available opener at your disposal. You'll pat your pockets to see what you have with you, and you'll think "Gee, my cellphone's antenna could do the trick." Don't mistake me: it is not for me to tell you how to live your life. My goal here is simply to help you make an informed choice next time this situation arises. Should you go ahead and try to open your beer with your cellphone antenna, this is what will happen: the first time, it will work like a charm. The top will pop off, and there will only be a little mark on the plastic sheath of the antenna. You'll feel pleased with your ingenuity, with using tools for new, unintended purposes. But the second beer, beware the second beer! This is the beer that will snap the antenna off of your phone, rendering it incapable of picking up a signal. Plus, that sikh dude who was opening beers with his metal bracelet is right over there, so there's absolutely no need to break the phone.

Also, should you go out to buy your new phone the next morning before meeting someone you haven't seen in quite a while for lunch, give it enough time. Like an hour. Those salespeople are in no hurry to get you your goods in a timely manner, it seems. If you're not careful, they'll make you 10 minutes late, and you don't want to look rude, do you? Finally, and this one I really mean, when you sit down to this lunch be sure, absolutely sure, that you do not knock over a glass of water two minutes later, spilling water across the table and into your friend's lap. That is inexcusable, though not malicious.

(4 Liftoffs | Launch a rocket)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

11:38PM - As if repairs were under way at some flawed place in the iron dark of the world.

We're having a nice storm here, and I find myself unsure if thunderstorms are flexible enough to match most moods, or if they yoke you (or at least me) to a mood appropriate for them. Either way, if it comes up for a vote, I'm for 'em. Though thunder and lightning with snow, that would be a hell of a thing. (Is that physically impossible, or are the necessary conditions just really rare?)

Also, those of you with any interest at all in John Cage, do yourself a favor and have a gander at this. As the post points out, they do an interesting job of making a bit of a spectacle of him while still treating him with a good bit of respect as a performer.

(1 Liftoff | Launch a rocket)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

11:57PM - The disconcerting effects of REM

So I haven't really been sleeping enough, not for any particular reason, but because vacations always mess up my bedtime clock, and it takes me a while to recalibrate, so I've been napping. On the whole, this isn't awful, as I like a good nap, but the past two days:

-Yesterday I had an odd dream about a coworker which involved us having a normal but improbable and awkward interaction on the subway, only to be called by the same coworker five minutes after having woken up from my nap. (There will be a dramatic reading of a screenplay, and I will be reading the lead. You guys, I'm finally breaking into the Auto HS dramatic reading business, and I'm leading dude material!)

-Today I woke up at 7:06, and due to the quality of the light coming in through my window thought I'd slept through the night and had to go to work again. I was frantic and pissed for the two minutes it took for me to realize that it was really still in the pm.

The moral of the story is probably that I should get a little more sleep so that my naps didn't hit me so hard, but let's pretend it's that sometimes naps can be spooky and shit.

Also, apparently I have a gmail account named bearsenator? I even have an email from December from Evan there, so if this is all an elaborate hoax he's in on it. How did I create an email address to amuse myself and then totally forget about it so quickly? Am I quietly having spells here? Do I do things I later don't remember? Have I killed? WILL I KILL AGAIN!?

(1 Liftoff | Launch a rocket)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

9:19PM - Let's Get Out of this Country


IMG_0073
Originally uploaded by Slambot.
As you may know, I recently went on a road trip across some of this find nation of ours. It wasn't as long a road trip as I'd intended, but it wasn't short either, and over its course I took some pictures. The mostly involve signs and tunnels, but hey, those are fine. We also went to the US Air Force Museum, where I took seriously way too many pictures, but that'll be another post another day. For now, enjoy everything else. (It's quite evident here, although this isn't all of the photos I took, that I took way more at the beginning of the trip than the end. I'm fine with that if you are, I guess.

(6 Liftoffs | Launch a rocket)

Thursday, April 5, 2007

3:48AM

Livejournal, I've been holding out on you. eHolding out on you. You see, I recently bought myself a digital camera, and as a result I have gotten a Flickr account. You can find it here if you're interested. I'm currently on a road trip, as it's my spring break (note: whoo!), and I didn't want this to be a shock to you when I dump a lot of photos from my trip on you in a few days' time. In it you can see such things as my dirty apartment, Evan in various poses, poor self portraits, and a few subway stops. I can't promise anything exciting, but I can promise honesty, or as much honesty as one can achieve with a camera in this crazy postmodern world. Also, I'm in Chicago right now. How bout that!

(Launch a rocket)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

3:22PM - A little change would do you good.

Last night I was at a bar with a bunch of camp friends when one turned to me and remarked that I hadn't changed at all in five years. I replied that I had no interest in changing. He clearly meant it as a complement, but it got me thinking. I like the idea that down the line I may not be changing much. I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin, so while there are a few tendencies I have that I'd like to rejigger, I like the idea of, if not a permanance of self, at least a strong continuity. I hope to never have to consider disavowing the decisions of a younger, distant me. Do people really change much? I've never been all that convinced that, beyond the necessities of growing up, anyone really changes much.

(2 Liftoffs | Launch a rocket)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

1:36AM

Man, it sure is impossible to grade quizes and watch a movie with subtitles at the same time...

(1 Liftoff | Launch a rocket)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

12:19AM - A guitar with a hotplate in it

So I bought myself this. It'll be a while before I really have any idea what I'm doing, but it already sounds awesome, and it's a thing to behold, I tells ya. I'll need a rocking chair, a porch, and someone on the washboard in no time at all if this goes according to plan.

(6 Liftoffs | Launch a rocket)

Friday, February 9, 2007

10:07PM

I just realized that, due to my choices of footwear, I quite literally have not tied my shoes in over 2 months. And yet I'm still considered an adult! Every day I get away with this!

(3 Liftoffs | Launch a rocket)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

12:05AM

Man, is there anything better than glancing out the window and seeing that it's snowing? I took a peek just before going to sleep, and it coming down nicely out there. Might even stick. I was thinking about this the other day, and I think the only things I love as strongly and unabashedly as snow (people and metaphysical concepts excluded) are elephants, baseball and the moon. That right there is my shortlist. Not quite My Favorite Things, but then I'm no Austrian singing matron, so that works for me.

(7 Liftoffs | Launch a rocket)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

8:02PM - Do you wash your hair in honeydew?

So I saw The Essex Green and Camera Obscura last night, and it was really, really good. I mean, I fucking love Camera Obscura. But that's not what I'm here to talk about. What was noteworthy about the show was The Essex Green's guitarist. They're a really good 60's/70's pop sort of band, and he did a good job with fills and licks, but every time he was playing something you'd notice, he'd act like he was in a real rock band. He kept trying to do that thing where two people in a band playing guitar sort of face each other and rock out, but the dude singer wasn't really into it, so it just kind of looked like the guitarist was kind of humping the singer. I spent a lot of their set imagining him pestering them for more solos during recording sessions.

Also, I bought a new pair of glasses on eBay recently, because I wanted some Malcolm X-style frames. It worked out well, with me not paying too much for what will some good new glasses when I get around to replacing the old lenses. However, these glasses are bifocals from the late 60's, they belonged to the seller's dad, and the lenses, especially the bifocal part, are really close to my prescription. I can put them on and read, doing the looking-down-my-nose-because-I'm-wearing-bifocals thing. So here's my question: DO I HAVE A DEAD MAN'S EYEBALLS IN MY HEAD? Because, what!?

(7 Liftoffs | Launch a rocket)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

11:47PM - A minor quandry

Given that people are hanged, not hung, shouldn't it be "hanged-over"?

(6 Liftoffs | Launch a rocket)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

4:22PM - Missives from the Front

I'm sitting in my living room, surfing the internet in my sweatpants. No longer am I shackled to the oppressive wireless internet on my laptop; now I can check things on my Nintendo. On the damn tv. What with this and Kissinger hanging out with Colbert, I'm pretty sure Evan (and Fukuyama?) is (are) right about this being the end of history.

(Typing via remote does make one appreciate having a keyboard, though...)

(1 Liftoff | Launch a rocket)

Monday, December 18, 2006

6:20AM - I would like to register a complaint!

It's December 18th and the high today is 63 degrees. There's one week until Christmas! Three days until the shortest day of the year. What the hell is this crap? Where is my frost? Where is my chance of snow!? Winter better get going soon, or I'll be writing some strongly-worded letters to the appropriate parties.

(2 Liftoffs | Launch a rocket)

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