Raising a child overseas has some odd challenges. One of them is getting them to the stage where they can independently visit a restroom. The first problem: which restroom?
This is compounded somewhat if you need to not only teach the child that restrooms come in at least two types, but also more than one language. In Japan, some restrooms used symbols, such as ▼for men’s restrooms and ▲for women’s restrooms, or ♂ for men and ♀ for women. But it also isn’t uncommon to find restrooms with signs that say, in English, “Men” or “Women.” Even a pre-literate child can figure out the symbols, or that the word “women” is longer than “men.”
Having mastered this level of independence, our child was nothing short of enraged to move to the US and find restrooms, usually in restaurants, labeled “Hombre” and “Mujer” or “Señor” and “Señorita” or “Blokes” and “Sheilas” or “Monsieur” and “Mademoiselle” or some other cutesy combo. The rage soon receded as other aspects of American life eclipsed this madness.
But then I recently came across this restroom sign, and felt utterly perplexed:
While we are on the subject of this sign: do you pay at the kiosk, or do you pay at the pay station? Must you pay at the pay station kiosk? Isn’t that redundantly redundant, in a redundant sort of way?
And since when is it the job of signs (or mechanical voices) to thank you? Have you ever felt any particular thankful sincerity from a metal sign?
Tattered Cover is a bookstore in Denver, Colorado. A real, brick-and-mortar (or possibly reinforced concrete and drywall) store selling physical books made of paper and cloth. It isn’t part of some huge corporate conglomerate, with ties into publishing companies and multimedia giants, but an independent bookstore.
How independent? Tattered Cover fought against provisions of the Patriot Act that allowed for seizure of book purchase records without a warrant or hearing. Prior to that, Tattered Cover had defended First Amendment rights in challenges by Colorado law enforcement groups seeking to broadly define obscenity, or to tie book purchases to illegal drug operations.
Tattered Cover’s commitment to the tried and true values of democracy and physical books also extends to plumbing:
You just don’t see plumbing like this in men’s rooms any more. The plumbing is new; where did they even find it?
Humans can not only put people on the moon, we can also send poems to space. On Thursday, September 20, 2012, a large helium-filled balloon was launched from Weston Park, west of the University of Sheffield in Sheffield, England. Equipped with two cameras, a GPS transponder, a thermometer, a heating pad, and two poems, the vehicle cost £350 pounds, and aside from the cargo, consisted mostly of the balloon itself, string, duct tape, and a polystyrene box serving as the cargo compartment. Two hours and 40 minutes later the shattered balloon and its cargo parachuted back to earth, touching down 70 miles north of Sheffield in Linton-Upon-Ouse, after reaching a height of over 21 miles.
The launch took place before sunrise, but as the balloon rose it caught the early rays of dawn well before light touched the ground. Accelerating at almost five meters (16 feet) every second, the balloon expanded as the pressurized helium in the balloon met less and less resistance as the air thinned. In the very thin upper atmosphere, four times the altitude at which jetliners cruise, the balloon suddenly ruptured, and after falling into denser air, a parachute blossomed out, slowing the long fall to Earth.
Weston Park was not the most attractive venue for a launch in the wee hours of the morning.
One of the poems was written by Lykara Ryder. She composed it during a trans-polar flight from the UK to the US, looking down from her window seat as the snow and ice-covered fields of far northern Canada gradually gave way to signs of habitation.
Window seat on a night flight
By Lykara Ryder
Beneath the sight-stealing white
mist, the lines of light
that mark the land are burned, like sun
spots, into my eyes until the horizon
smudges out. So
this grid of humanity below
has me puff and sigh, full of wonder
as crystals of water
lives that span the globe
and days that cross continents.
I dream until descent
of posted parcels, Army
boys coming home, the debris
of broken homes being flung
across the sky, now strung —
just like these lights — crosswise
above the earth below my eyes.
Cameras mounted in the cargo compartment recorded the ascent. Note the increase in the size of the balloon as the balloon rises.