Pity The Poor Apostrophe

Is any punctuation mark more misused than the poor apostrophe?  How often do you see a sign, like this one in downtown Columbus, where an apostrophe has been weirdly inserted for some mysterious reason, causing inevitable confusion?  In this case, are multiple condos for lease, or is the sign supposed to communicate a contraction of “condo is for lease”?  And don’t get me started on whether there’s a person named “Condo” involved in some fashion and there is supposed to be any possessive element to what is being conveyed.

It’s amazing how many commercial signs have apostrophe errors.  If you are going to put up a big sign about something for sale, wouldn’t you also invest in a proofreader?

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Robots In Space

Tomorrow Russia will be sending a humanoid robot into space.  The robot will be one of the passengers on a Soyuz capsule that will take the robot and other crew members to the International Space Station.  Once there, the robot will perform certain tasks under the direction and supervision of a Russian cosmonaut.

190723192309234a3550372iThere are some signs that the robot’s trip is a bit of a publicity stunt, with a whiff of the old “space race” about it.  For one thing, the robot’s name was recently changed, from “Fedor” to “Skybot F-850.”  For another, the Russians say the robot will occupy the commander’s seat on the Soyuz, rather than being carted up in the cargo compartment — although Soyuz being a capsule, there really isn’t a commander’s seat or much piloting going on.  The robot also seems to be a kind of multi-purpose robot who is largely controlled through immersive teleoperation (i.e., controlled by a human) rather than fully autonomous.

As for the whiff of the old space race days, there’s a conscious effort to compare Skybot F-850 to an American robot called Robonaut-2 that worked at the International Space Station a few years ago and is ready to return.  Robonaut-2, the Russians point out, was shipped to the ISS as part of the cargo rather than as a member of the crew.  Good thing for Robonaut-2 that robots can’t feel embarrassment!

Even though the Russian effort seems to have a lot of publicity elements to it, I’m still glad to see a focus on moving forward with robotics in space.  Astronauts are great, of course, but a lot of the hard work involved in tackling space is going to be done by robots who don’t have to worry about atmospheres or food.  If a little taste of the space race will help to move the process along, I’m all for it.

Atop Camelback

I’ve enjoyed spending some time in Boise, Idaho, over the last few months.  It reminds me of Columbus in some ways — it’s a growing town with a good foodie scene and a significant college vibe, thanks to Boise State University — but of course it’s different in come ways, too.  One difference in the overall vibe is the foothills (in flat Columbus, we’d call them mountains) that are found very close to the downtown area.

We decided to hike up Camelback, which is only a few blocks from the core downtown area, up 8th Street through a very cool neighborhood.  Once you reach the trail head, you can walk straight up to the Camelback overlook, or vie with the mountain bikers, horseback riders, joggers, and dogwalkers on one of the main trails that fan out into the area.  We took one of the trails first, heading out into the sagebrush and arid scenery, then ended the excursion with the cool Camelback overlook and its nice view of downtown Boise and the Idaho Statehouse dome.

It’s amazing what a little elevation near downtown can do for you.  Of course, I’m not sure that many downtown officeworkers hike up dusty Camelback on their lunch hours.

In The Delayed Luggage Delivery Waiting Zone

Yesterday I had a plane flight that involved a very tight connection in Minneapolis-St. Paul.  The B.A. Jersey Girl and I made it, thanks to some speed-walking on the rolling lanes and light jogging through an underground tunnel, but unfortunately our bags didn’t.  Instead, they got routed to Detroit, for some reason, and were supposed to make it to Columbus late last night.

So now, I’m in the delayed luggage delivery waiting zone.

When we found out at the Columbus airport that the luggage wouldn’t make it to town until much later, we had a choice:  either have the bags delivered last night, or this morning.  I figured there was no way I wanted to wait up for a delivery that probably wouldn’t happen until well after midnight, so I chose this morning instead.  And because I’ve read about the scourge of Amazon porch pirates and therefore think it’s probably not wise to leave two fully stuffed bags sitting out on the front steps for the entire day, this morning I’m in the delivery waiting zone.

The problem with being in the delivery waiting zone is that the estimates of arrival time are regrettably . . . imprecise.  The websites and 1-800 numbers are nice, and certainly give you a lot of information about the torturous route your bags have followed — in addition to giving you more than ample privacy disclosures — but the reality is that you’re still looking at about a six-hour window, and you’re never quite sure whether your stuff is being successfully delivered until it actually hits your doorstep and you hear the doorbell ring.

Time for another cup of coffee!

 

Voices In The Room

Sometimes I don’t know what American hotel chains are thinking.  Consider this increasingly commonplace hotel scenario.  You check in, get your keycard, lug your bags into the elevator and up to the room, use the key card to access the room, open the door, and . . . .

There are strange voices coming from inside the room.  Murmuring, distinctly human voices, but at a volume where you can’t immediately make out what the heck they are saying.  Then you go into your room and discover that the TV is on, set to a channel where people are talking, and you have to walk over and turn it off.

Why is this the latest trend?  It’s inexplicable.  You used to go into your hotel room and, in many cases, find that the TV has been set to a music channel.  But now the music welcome has been junked, and it’s always a TV channel where people are talking.  Sometimes it’s the channel that carries those long vignette ads for the hotel chain itself, and sometimes its the local NPR station.  But it’s almost always human voices in the background these days.

Why is this so?  I suppose somebody thought that the sound of human voices in the room would make the weary lone traveler feel a little less isolated on his or her trip.  Or maybe they just figure they’ll hit you with a few seconds of free hotel advertising time during the time it takes for you to drop your bags, march over to the TV set, wrestle with the remote, and figure out how to turn the TV off.

This has become standard operating procedure in most hotels, so you’d think I’d be used to it — but I’m not.  Instead, I inevitably think as I open the door — “Hey, have I gone to the wrong room?”

 

Karaoke

Last night I was part of a group that went to a karaoke bar. We got up on stage to sing the Bill Withers’ classic Lean On Me, and of course watched other people perform as we waited our turn. From this limited, never-to-be-repeated exposure to the karaoke world, I’ve reached several conclusions:

1. Most people (including me) can’t sing or dance to save their lives.

2. Most people who enjoy karaoke don’t realize number 1, above, applies to them.

3. I had no idea that growling, headbanger-type songs are popular karaoke fare. It was disturbing enough to realize that some people would pick such offerings to be their songs to perform, but watching them belt out troubling lyrics that scrolled by on the screen upped the disturbing quotient to the nth degree. You want to steer clear of anybody who thinks it’s a good idea to publicly perform those songs.

Pocket Parks (Boise Edition)

I’ve written before about pocket parks — those small, quiet enclaves of green trees and grass and shade carved out from cityscapes that can brighten the lives of the people in the surrounding neighborhood — so I’ve got to call out Boise, Idaho for a pretty cool example of the pocket park concept.

The C.W. Moore park is just a few blocks from the core downtown area of Boise.  It’s a beautiful little park, and it’s got some features you don’t see in most parks.  For one thing, it’s got a functioning water wheel in one corner — and what person taking a break from the hurly-burly of life wouldn’t enjoy watching a slowly moving, mesmerizing water wheel and hearing the sound of the rushing water?  The water wheel is an important touchstone for the city’s history, too, because Boise is located in an arid region and water wheels and water systems helped to make Boise green and habitable.

The park also includes other links to Boise history.  Around the park you will see the name stones and date stones of former Boise schools and buildings — you can see part of the Central School name stone in the photo above — as well as a former building entrance arch, a carriage stone, a locally quarried limestone block, columns and streetlights from Boise’s past, and a building turret.  It’s all a pretty cool way of linking the park to Boise’s past in a tangible and interesting way.  Kudos to the Boise Park Department for taking the pocket park concept to the next level.