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The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche by Gary Krist

In February of 1910, a series of nasty snowstorms stranded two trains at the Wellington Station on a cliffside in the Cascade Mountains. Then, on March 1st, a nasty thunderstorm hit and an avalanche wiped out both trains killing about 100 people.

This book used letters (found on some of the victims) and recollections of the survivors to discuss the feelings of the people on the trains. It was a very claustrophobic place because they were trapped there for six days due to the storms.

The railway manager, James O'Neill, worked tirelessly to free the trains, though weather and lack of coal hurt the attempts. Also, the laborers paid to shovel the railways walked off the job due to low pay: 15 cents an hour, but they had to pay for room and board. O'Neill refused to negotiate with them, which is what the railroad management would have agreed to.

This book builds suspense well. Definitely worth a look.
oxymoron67: (Default)
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Today, it was sunny and windy with snow flurries. ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

oxymoron67: (Default)
Today, the sky opened and we had monsoonal rains all day long.

I had the day off -- it's graduation day at my college, which has the dumbest Academic calendar in the known universe, so I decided to go to The Museum of the City of New York and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The rain was awful when I left the apartment. I almost stayed home, but decided against it. Fortunately, my local bus stop (getting to either of these museums from my place is easier by bus) has a shelter. I mwas there for twenty-ish minutes.

Got on the bus, which was leaky. I got wetter on the bus than I did at the bus shelter.

Anyway, by the time I get to the Museum of the City of New York, the rain had slowed from deluge to merely a downpour. MCNY... I thought they;d have their new exhibits up. they didn't. That's next week.


Fortunately, the Colonial American Style exhibit was still up. It's wonderful. Also, an artist's work inspired from 9/11 is on display. This artist had planned to do eleven paintings, but died in an accident after only finishing eight.

They are really interesting paintings.

From there, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Normally when I visit here, I have plans. Not this time. I kind of went all over the place: the Greco-Roman section (specifically the section about Hellenistic influences in Southern Italy), the art of Medeival Europe, European Decorative Arts, The Egyptian arts section (specifically the Temple of Hathepsut) and the Ethiopian art area of the African Art collection.

It was a lot of fun.

Tomorrow> I will likely do very little.


Aug. 28th, 2011 04:58 pm
oxymoron67: (Default)
I'm fine. My neighborhood is fine. Never lost power. Got lots of rain.

I'm lucky: parts of NYC are flooded and (around here) New Jersey, Long Island and the Hudson Valley seem to have taken a much worse hit than we did. Metro North, the commuter line that serves the northern suburbs has been hit hard. There was an avalanche or mudslide on part of the line and flooding and damage in other areas.

The subway tunnels have flooded but the Mass Transit Authority managed to move all the equipment out of harm;s way, so one everything has been cleaned out and inspected, the trains can run again. I don't expect this until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest.

Bus service is slowly being restored, however. So, with any luck, I can start Geek Week II: The Geekening on Tuesday.

The attitude I don't get? On my FB and Twitter feeds, I've seen some "That wasn't so bad why was everyone so alarmist?" reactions.

This was my FB reaction to those people:

To all those saying that the threat was blown out of proportion: you plan for the worst, while hoping it doesn't happen. So stop being so damned stupid about this and shut your pieholes.

I feel for those in NJ: the rivers there will be over flood stage for most of the week.

On the whole, this is an experience I don't care to repeat.
oxymoron67: (Default)
a hurricane is on its way.

Preparations I've already made?

1) Food. I have bagels. I have peanut butter. I have fruit, both dried and fresh. May pick up some cookies or something for a treat or something. Maybe crackers and spray cheese.

2) Water. I have some, will have more.

3) Clothing. This sounds silly, but I dropped off laundry today. I didn't really NEED to, but this way, I;ll have over three weeks of clean laundry, I've read about these things enough to know that this is important on a psychological level.

4) Important electronic devices will be fully charged by Saturday night.

Things I need?

1) Will run that tub full of water for sanitation.

2) Batteries.

3) Can't find my flashlight. Need to fix that. May just by a new one in my travels tomorrow.

4) Should get a battery powered radio.

5) First aid kit. Mine is depleted.

I don't live right near the ocean of the rivers, so storm surge shouldn't be an issue for me. Flooding? Possibly. They're already saying that the subways will likely shut down. I'm betting that there will be street flooding.

This is scary.
oxymoron67: (Default)
It was a hot and absurdly humid Wednesday. The AC was malfunctioning in the Foreign Languages Building, where all my classes were, and I ended the day covered in sweat.

I went back to my dorm room and took a nap. When I woke up, I decided to shower, then go to supper.

I was in the shower, shampooing my hair and beard (hey, it keeps my beard soft and fluffy), when the alarm siren went off. At the same time, the dorm's intercom turned on:

"A tornado has been sighted in Champaign County, please relocate to the basement now!"

Never having been through this before, I panicked a little. I barely rinsed out my hair, ran into my room, threw on clothes, but no shoes and ran down to the basement. But first, I looked outside. The sky was this odd purple color; the wind was blowing furiously, and the lightning was flashing across the sky. I could see people outside running for cover. I opened the door for a few of them.

Between the sirens and the intercom system, I didn't really hear the thunder, though.

Honestly, I looked like ass: all dripping wet and disheveled. People assumed I was out in the storm until they saw that I was barefoot. The folks who were interrupted while having sex looked less disheveled than I did.

This particular tornado stayed in the southern part of the county, and did no damage where I was, which is just as well, because if it had hit where I was, since I was footwear-free, I would have been in trouble.

Tornadoes became part of my life after that. There were a few big ones, but you never forget the first one.
oxymoron67: (Default)
An friend's entry jogged a memory.

I grew up in the Pittsburgh area, which isn't exactly Tornado Alley. I'm not saying tornadoes never struck the area, but they were infrequent.

Then I moved to Champaign-Urbana, in east central Illinois, to attend grad school.

My first semester there, I didn't have any classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I spent afternoons at the Proust Archive, working on digitizing the information there (Yay for open source HTML coding! Most of which I haven;t used in forever!).

But the mornings were free.

One beautiful Tuesday morning in September, I had an errand to run about oh... financial aid and my tuition/service fee waiver. I was walking down this street, right by the Quad at around 10:00 am. The street was empty. Scary empty. Horror movie empty.

I had no idea why. I just figured that everyone was in class and assumed that that meant a shorter line for me when I got to the Financial Aid Office.

Then the siren went off. For two long, painful minutes, the emergency siren wailed. Where was the emergency siren? Why it was on the street where I was walking. It did deafen me for a few minutes and was quite painful to listen to.

After recovering my hearing, I staggered into the financial aid office, where I still must have looked stunned.

The woman helping me with my financial aid (which went extraordinarily smoothly, unlike my undergrad experience) looked at me and asked what was wrong.

I told her where I was and what happened and she started to laugh then explained it to me.

See, every Tuesday morning around 10am during Tornado season (i.e. not Winter), they do a practice run with the sirens to make sure they work. Everybody knows this, and avoids being on that street at that time.

I was flabbergasted. It never occurred to me that you'd have weekly drills about such things. It just struck me as odd. Of course, I understood why a few weeks later...

... but I have to go give a midterm now,so that story will have to wait for later.
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Work itself was okay. I got a few calls for reservations for the Speech Labs (so that classes can come in and use it). I talked with the professors, then reminded them to e-mail me the details.

One of my first lessons in managing the Speech Center was to require e-mail requests. This cuts down on mistakes on both ends.

These particular professors have worked with me before, so they know the drill.

Our staffing is all set up and we have lesson plans for Monday's lab classes, so we're all ready to go.

I though class went well. We finished going through the various consonant sounds of English and defining each sound using linguistic vocabulary: voicing, for example. Voicing is the vibration of your vocal chords. It's what makes the difference between an /s/ and a /z/.

Several of my students had a hard time with the vocabulary, and, honestly, with even thinking about analyzing how you make sounds. This is understandable: speaking, while it is learned, is a reflex. We don't normally think about how we make various sounds or why the /h/ sound never appears at the end of a word.

For a lot of people, doing this takes time.

We also went over their first recording assignment: the Robert Frost poems. I put twelve Frost poems up on Blackboard, and they have to choose one to record for me. Why Frost? I think he is a good place to start: challenging, but not brutal. Why twelve poems? Variety is happiness. Yes, several (or perhaps even most) of my students will say that all the choices suck, but giving them some freedom to choose actually cuts down on the complaints.

All the poems are at about the same level of difficulty, with the exception of Hyla Brook, which is less about the precision of the sounds than it is about breathing and pausing. This one I reserve for native speakers of English only, and if no one wants to do ti, that;s fine.

Giving them a choice benefits me, as well. I have 28 students. Listening to the same thing 28 times is a drag. Cutting down on the number of times I'll be doing that is a good thing.

Also, I like this bunch (so far). We were talking about the recording assignments, and I mentioned that I had decided no to do the news project this term because we're having trouble with the webcams. After I explained the News Project, the overwhelming majority of them wanted to do it anyway.

Even though I mentioned that we would probably have to videotape them, they still wanted to do it. I like this.

So class was good. Because I spent most of the day in my office, which is in the interior of a large cement block building (it was a factory in a former life), I did not know that Mother Nature had unleashed monsoons and tornadoes on NYC. When I left at 8:00, I found out that the trains weren;t running, that most of the highways had been shut down and that, generally, it was a mess.

After waiting for a bus for an hour, I decided instead to go into Manhattan, grab a bite to eat somewhere, and, hopefully, things would be better when I was finished.

They weren't.

I managed to hurt both of my ankles (they're just stiff today: no real harm done), and gave up and hailed a cab home.
oxymoron67: (Default)
It's still hot... but while I was waiting for the bus this morning, there was a breeze, so it wasn't as bad as yesterday's wait for the bus.

Meantime class...

We covered the basics of the English stress system yesterday, then they practiced for their news reports that they're giving tomorrow.

They have 40-45 seconds to summarize an article that they bring in.

The practices were AWFUL. I'm afraid this thing will bomb tomorrow, which is odd, because the other times I've done it's worked out well. Of course, then the students were into it, this time, not so much.

We'll see.

Oh, the girl that cheated yet still got only a six? She wasn't there yesterday. I think she dropped the class.


Jul. 6th, 2010 01:07 pm
oxymoron67: (Default)
HEAT! Which, while I do not like the heat, I can at least deal with it. My job has AC.

To relieve some of the pressure on the electric grid, the powers that be here have lessened the climate control. It's okay: it;s on the border of being uncomfortable, but it's not there.

On top of this, I have an ear infection that had basically shut down one of my ears, so I'm down to hemispherical hearing.


I've planned out tonight's class: introduction tot he American English stress system, practice for the news project, which we'll be recording Thursday, and a quiz!
oxymoron67: (Default)

It started with a simple idea. "I'm bored. I want to try something different."
TMI ahead. )

Because of the food poisoning, I didn't do anything this weekend. Of course, it was monsoon season here in NYC, so I probably wouldn't have done anything anyway. I guess the Candide exhibit can wait until this Saturday. I've decided that I want to go to lost of museum exhibits/plays/art openings, so I can be the urban cultural elitist that people like my brother think really aren't American somehow.
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Two feet of snow! I give my super credit, the sidewalk around my apartment building is just wet, but the street is a nightmare. I saw a few almost accidents today.

Meantime, I've been reading my new textbook and startint to put together ideas for the class.

For instance, I'd like to do a project where the students listen to greetings and write the exchanges down, to show the variety of greetings out there.

Invitations are another goos area for exploration.

trip prep

Dec. 19th, 2009 12:21 pm
oxymoron67: (Default)
I have managed to do all my running around, so all I have left to do is some cleaning and packing. Since, I'm leaving on Monday, this is a good thing.

Normally, since I'm going to Penn Station, I'd just walk over to Queens Blvd and flag down a cab. But, we're probably still be digging out from the storm AND several of my neighbors are allergic to shovels or something, I made reservations with a car service. It's a little more expensive but totally worth it.
oxymoron67: (awesome)
Icon from the delightful [livejournal.com profile] nc_bookworm

Two friends of mine and I met for a cruise around Manhattan. It was about an hour long and I really enjoyed the cruise itself. Once it got started.

Let me rewind. The cruise was to depart at 4:30, so we get in line, during an absurdly hot summer's day, at 3:45. We stand there. And stand there. And stand there some more Then the moved us from one part of the pier to the other. Then we stood again. Then they moved us back to the original departure point.

Also, our ship? Not climate controlled. (Which, once we were moving, wasn't so bad.)

We had fun. We did this primarily to see the installation art: the waterfalls around NYC. They were great. I will hopefully post pictures later. The tour also took us around Governor's Island, Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty and all around lower Manhattan.

The tour guide, on the other hand, was awful. She was obsessed with 9/11. It was like this:

"On your left is the man made waterfall under the Brooklyn Bridge. Also, did I mention that 89/11 happened in the Financial DIstrict? It's only several blocks from the pier, go see Ground Zero."

She pimped Ground Zero every chance she got.

After that, we went to Outback Steakhouse. It was delicious. Especially since we were finally in air conditioning. Also, I was ravenous. I hadn't had anything to eat all day I had some milk, lots of water and a chai latte. We talked about the day, various movies we've seen and our imaginary celebrity husbands. My one friend and I had a gay-off with our iPods. I won: mine was gayer because I have not one, but two Shirley Bassey albums on there.

Lots of fun. I recommend doing a boat tour of the waterfalls if you come to NYC while they're still here.

Just choose a cooler day. (My scalp is sunburned, people!)
oxymoron67: (fruitcat)
39 F and pouring rain. Ick. I'd rather have snow.


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