Hearing The Distant Strains Of Steel Drum Music

It’s chilly and damp here in Columbus, and the weather forecast is for colder temperatures and snow.  I’m mentally not ready for it.  So, I’ve plugged in my iPod and decided to listen to some steel drum music.

Steel drum music is one of the few musical genres that will immediately transport you to a particular place.  In this instance, it is somewhere in the Caribbean on a beach, looking at brilliant blue water beneath clear skies, with a cold adult beverage in your hand and your toes wriggling in the sand.  The tinkling of the steel drums music wafts past on sultry breezes and urges you, irresistibly, to try the latest rum-based concoction developed by the friendly barkeep at the nearby Sand Bar.

When you listen to steel drum music, snow and cold are very far away.

Although the precise history of the invention of the steel drum apparently is uncertain, there seems to be general agreement that it was first developed on the island of Trinidad during or shortly after World War II.  From there, it spread to every island in the Caribbean, and a new kind of musical sound was born.  The drums typically are made from the bottoms of 55-gallon steel drums and are called “pans.”  The surfaces are carefully shaped and tuned so that striking particular parts of the concave surface sounds different notes, and they usually are polished to a shiny finish.  If you watch an expert play a steel drum, as opposed to just swaying with the music as you guzzle your Swizzle or Sea Breeze, you realize that it takes a lot of skill.

The first song I ever heard played on a steel drum was “Yellow Bird.”  Jamaica Ray plays it in the video below, and although the video is dark, I like it because the dimness and background bar sounds really capture the relaxed Caribbean feel that I think of whenever I hear steel drum music.

Trillions Of Planets, And Still Counting

Continuing developments in telescope technology are causing astronomers to increase their estimates of the number of Earth-like worlds in the universe.

The latest disclosure deals with the existence of “red dwarf” stars, which are dimmer and smaller than the Sun.  Until recently, telescopes have not been sufficiently powerful to detect such stars in other galaxies.  Enhancements to telescopes, however, have allowed astronomers to determine that red dwarf stars are far more common than was previously suspected.  Indeed, astronomers believe that such stars are 20 times more prevalent in older galaxies than in our galaxy.  As a result, astronomers also are concluding that there likely are many more Earth-like planets orbiting those stars — possibly trillions of Earth-like worlds.

Trillions of Earth-like planets?  The concept is provocative, because increases in the number of planets logically also increases the likelihood of life, and therefore intelligent life, on at least some of those faraway planets.  And the follow-up question is even more provocative:  would the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life be good or bad?  Would we rather be the only intelligent life forms in the universe, or would we prefer to learn that we are not alone — indeed, that intelligent life is as common as the fish in the sea?  How comfortable would humans be with the knowledge that they live in a crowded neighborhood, where neighbors might drop in for a visit at any moment?

New-Fallen Snow

We awoke this morning to a layer of new-fallen snow and icy temperatures.

On our walk Penny and I braved a cutting wind, saw the first salt truck of the season rumble past, spreading nuggets across the road, and experienced our first “Whoa Nellie!” skid on the slick and snow-covered walkways.

The salt truck sighting made me grimace.  Where the first salt truck is on the road, commuters trying to re-learn how to drive on slippery roads cannot be far behind.  This morning’s commute probably will be grim.