Tuesday Trivia - USA Edition

Over at IHJ, Chris has started a nice little routine of posting trivia question(s) each and every Tuesday*. His questions are less of the you-know-it-or-you-don't* variety and more of the if-you-put-your-mind-to-it-you-should-be-able-to-figure-it-out* type. However you choose to hyphenate the description, they are good fun.

It fits nicely that I've been preparing for a trivia post for some time, inspired by my recent travels. I thought I would throw them in the Tuesday Trivia realm so we can all exercise our brains together. For answers, hover over question number at the end. Feel free to post your score, or any qualms you have with the questions, in the comments.

State Capitals:
1) How many U.S. state capitals have more than one word? (ex: Kansas City (if that was the capital))
2) Which U.S. capital's name shares no letters with the name of the state it's in? (ex: Not Salem, Oregon because they both have an "E")
3) Which 4 U.S. state capitals start with the same letter as the state they are in?*
Other Geography(ish):
4) Name as many popular U.S. cities with 6 or more syllables.*
5) What letter isn't used in the spelling of any states name?
6) Rank the 4 major timezones in the U.S. by population, greatest to least.
Other:
7) What state has the most vanity license plates?
8) Name which presidents have memorials on the National Mall in D.C.
9) Which is the only U.S. state that has a non-rectangular flag?

Answers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 61, 72, 8, 9
Tuesday April 29 2008File under: misc

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Four Nights

Like many people, I harbor a secret desire to write; I mean really write, with vivid imagery, foreshadowing, and all that good stuff. So instead of the typical I-did-this-then-this post, I wanted to try something new. Please bear with me.

It wasn't the sound that woke him from his slumber, a tame noise that easily faded into the background, but it was the first conscious recognition that he had. Before even opening his eyes, he started to wonder what the source of the sound might be. His thought process, uncommonly clear at so early an hour–a trait he silently thanked his ancestors for daily–led him first to think about location, which was an interesting detour in itself.

Four consecutive nights and four different pillows on which he has rested his head; lately not so uncommon an occurrence. For the past couple of years, he spent less than half his nights at home, in his childhood twin bed tucked in his mother's garage. The other half had him either watching other people's houses as a housesitter, one of his many somewhat unlikely "careers", or on the road. Currently he was at the tail end of a 6 week jaunt through the northeastern United States, having successfully accomplished the goal of seeing old friends. This was his last stop.

He mentally laid out the previous 4 nights. Thursday was a freshly carpeted floor in midtown Manhattan. Friday was a couch in a quintessentially Maine apartment–slanted ceilings, old wood floors, and more character than an entire suburban development combined–in Portland. Saturday night he closed his eyes in upstate New York and opened them in Ohio, with the comforting clatter of the rail line to keep him lulled in semi-sleep. Last night was, that's right, Chicago again.

With his location established, he reluctantly opened his eyes to further pursue the sound. A quick check of his watch, held approximately 3 inches from his face, offered the final clue: 7:00am. The shower. His host getting ready to head off to work. While he could stay tucked in his sleeping bag for a couple more hours–both because he was still recovering from the magical yet incomplete sleep from the train and because he had nothing at all planned for the day–he knew getting up to chat was the courteous thing to do. He learned from experience that folks offering their homes out of the goodness of their hearts don't take kindly to having the fact that they have to run off to work while their guest gets to lounge about all day rubbed in their face. Plus, he could always lie back down later.

Monday April 28 2008File under: travel

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FC 29 - He Who Smelt It

Last week, TreeHugger had an article about how a bunch of comics were going to cover environmentally themed issues in honor of Earth Day. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I had the idea way back. My plan was to do a whole month of comics in honor of Earth Day. Well, that kind of fell through, but I did get around to putting together at least one pseudo-environmentally themed comic*.

Anyway, as you can plainly see, art was provided by yours truly, again with the fancy stylus and touch screen*. Don't worry; now that my travels are starting to wind down, I'll have time to cajole our regular good artists into putting together some comics so you don't have to be subjected to my MSPaint pixel parties anymore. In fact, now that I've planted the seed of this whole comic thing, a couple of my artists are starting to come up with their own comic ideas as well as drawing them. Pretty soon, I'll be able to sit back and play no role whatsoever. I believe in the business, they call that "Middle Management".
Friday April 25 2008File under: comic

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New York New York



Cause everyone's my friend in New York City
And everything looks beautiful when you're young and pretty
The streets are paved with diamonds and there's just so much to see
But the best thing about New York City is you and me

New York, New York!
It's a hell of a town!
The schoolyard's up and the shopping mall's down!
The stray dogs go to the animal pound!
New York, New York!
New York, New York!
Springfield, Springfield!*
Thursday April 24 2008File under: travel, pics

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Green Travel

We've all pretty much accepted that I am an eco-geek, sometimes to an annoying degree, right? So it shouldn't be a surprise that I put a lot of thought into the environmental impact of my travels*. I addressed the issue, albeit novicely, back when I got back from Asia (remember?). Well since then, I've done more reading on the subject. This is the conclusion I've come to.

Calculating the impact of travel on the environment is hard. Do you measure the impact in CO2, which is ever so popular these days, or do you focus more on what type of fuel is being used and the impact of how we obtain that fuel? How does infrastructure play in? (ex: Building roads and rail lines across long distances can really gnarl up the landscape while planes just require a place to take off and land at each end.) What role does/should capacity play? (ex: If the plane I fly on is 1/4 full vs. totally full, my passenger miles per gallon are extremely different, with me having no control of that.) Even within a give style of transportation, there are huge variations that make generalizing towards a usable rule difficult. (ex: Turboprop planes, which are often used for short commuter flights, are way more fuel efficient than their jet engine cousins. And diesel trains belch more particulate matter per mile than electric trains.)

This graphic (and an expanded version over at their site) does a great job of summing up a general rule when thinking about travel: in order of most to least harmful goes traveling solo by car, flying, traveling via mass transit (train, carpooling, bus), non-motorized travel (walking/biking), followed up by not traveling*. While is isn't a hard fast rule, it is helpful for a quick sanity check.

The impact of all this for me is complicated, and I won't get into it too much. Sufficient to say, I take this all into consideration and I try to make responsible decisions. I try not to travel frivolously*, I try to fly less, and I actively seek out mass transit options. And I try to encourage awareness without being too much of a jerk about it. I hope I somewhat succeeded.

P.S. Happy Earth Day!
Tuesday April 22 2008File under: environment, travel

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Easy Time in NC

Traveling can be tiresome, tedious, and draining. I was reminded of this yesterday as I left New Bern NC to start heading north. A botched attempt at hitchhiking (in a thunderstorm the likes of which you can only dream of) followed by bus, taxi, and train, all with their hidden annoyances. Normally I try to avoid noticing the grittier side of travel, or at least avoid posting about it on the old blog. Yesterday, however, it seemed particularly noticeable because I had just got done spending a care-free, easy time with with the SirMaxALot crew.

I had such a great time. It was the perfect mix of downtime/recovery* and cultural and local activities, with plenty of time for catching up and philosophical conversation (with a healthy dose of Simpson quotes, of course). The weather was crazy good–so good, in fact, that I got to participate in one of my favorite activities ever: being shirtless outside*. I felt so welcomed into their home that it made all the hassle of travel just drift away. My collection of photos hardly does the time justice*. All the good shots ended up on their camera, so you will have to stay tuned over there to see the goodies (although I am hoping to snag a few for a wrap-up slideshow)*. That said, here are a few captured moments: my first NC geocache is Max's first cache ever; Sean, Max, and I enjoy some of the lovely riverscapes surrounding New Bern; and Christen, Max, Jack, and I did a little strawberry picking (the real photos from this one should be great).

Yep, now I am back on the dusty road with the next stop in NYC. Small town North Carolina to the City; I'm sure I will hardly notice the difference.
Monday April 21 2008File under: travel

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BdW Catch-22

Blogging can sometimes be a funny thing. When I've got all the time in the world to make posts, nothing bloggable seems to happen. On the other hand, when I am out having adventures that I want to write up and share, it is often hard to find the time (and computing resources) to make a post. During these periods of activity, posts inevitably either get totally out of sync with what's currently going on or lost in the excitement of the next thing. Case in point, the last two weeks.

I never got a chance to report on how I had a truly Baltimore day, hosted by Dave (of Publius Baltimore) and Sarah; Orioles game, seafood* at the world famous Lexington Market, geocaching*, and walking around the inner harbor. Or about how enamored I am with Annapolis, with its wonderfully cute downtown and all the nautical goings ons, all guided so informatively by not-a-native-but-you-wouldn't-know-it Anne. Or how I spent half a day meandering around our nation's capital, peeking at monuments and cherry blossoms*, followed by a great chance to catch up with an old friend. And I didn't get a chance to relay how I was treated to a wonderful home-cooked meal, great conversation*, and a place to stay* by Annie and Sam in Arlington, VA.

But I suppose if I had to pick a way for the scale to unbalance, it would be towards more bloggable happenings and less time to post. I still try to do my best keeping the blog updated, but sometimes I'd rather go camp on the beach than find a local library to make a post from. I'm sure you understand.
Saturday April 19 2008File under: travel

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FC 28 - Poor MacGyver

One glance at the comic for this week and you've prolly realized that the pencil pusher this week was yours truly. I just couldn't help myself. The computer I'm working on has this fancy touch screen with stylus so it was like I was a fancy graphics artist guy. Or maybe it was in pursuance of a dream of writing all over a computer screen. Either way, I hope you enjoy.

Thanks for all your great comic captions last week. I would say every single one of them was better than the one I was originally planning. We'll have to do another one of those soon. As for which one will be published, it is such a hard decision that I will put it off until my book deal comes through. I did LOL out loud* at the Beavis and Butthead one, though. Hehehehe.
Friday April 18 2008File under: comic

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Biking Recap

Ten days ago, I bought a used bike in Baltimore. It was nothing fancy; just a couple of wheels, gears, and a rack. The whole idea was to show (both to myself and anyone else interested) that with very simple tools and very little preparation, biking was a viable semi-long distance transportation option. Five hundred miles later, I'm glad to say that I've presented enough evidence to myself, at least, to fully accept this premise (and therefore never have to prove it again).

As with pretty much all my little hair-brained schemes, if I was to do it again, I would do it slightly differently. For one, I would have spent more time on finding a bike better suited to me. Because of the size of this bike, I didn't get to exercise all the muscles in my legs, but just my quads*. Also, learning over the handlebars as far as I had to left me with a bruised palm and tingly fingers.

I also prolly should have spent a little more time in planning out a route, specifically planning overnight locations. When you are road tripping by car (or scooter, for that matter), you have the luxury of waiting until near dark and then starting to look for the nearest campsite, motel, or dirt service road. While riding, my legs had pretty much given up for the day around 5:30 and I was lucky if I could even find a place to eat dinner (usually a gas station*). This led to some need for creativity regarding sleeping spots, which I will address later.

The other thing that I would do differently is to bring sunscreen. Who would have thought that having the back of your hands facing directly up to the sky for 10-12 hours a day would cause them to get sunburned? Well, it does, and in a big way. By about the 3rd day, I was resorting to smearing mud all over the back of my hands to keep the sun off. It actually worked surprisingly well*.

All these little things aside, I think the whole thing worked out great. I'm extremely proud of myself* and this accomplishment. Biking 500 miles in just over a week is something to be proud of. On my long days (everything after Arlington, VA), I think I averaged 75-80 miles a day. Anyway, for anyone that wants to see a general route (with mileage), click here (please to note: this route mileage is somewhat of an estimate in places because I lost track of all the crazy back roads* I ended up on. Also, mileage is off because I did have to take a bus through a tunnel under a river/bay in Norfolk and I couldn't figure out how to dis-include mileage from the ferries.)

Of course there are all the sights I saw (a surprising amount of wildlife, actually) and interesting characters that I met along the way that made this little trip such a grand adventure, but this post is too long as it is. You'll have to hear about that stuff in real life.
Thursday April 17 2008File under: travel, USA

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OBX North Carolina

Have you ever been to the Outer Banks* of North Carolina? If not, you should check them out. I've never gotten too much exposure to the treasures that the south has to offer in terms of "Hey, you should go visit [insert cool southern place name here]", but I had at least heard of the Outer Banks. That was reason enough for me to check it out*.

Although I only spent a brief day and a half there (and most of that was in the saddle), I can definitely say that it was worth the visit. If you can look past the rampant tourist/consumeristic overtones (that weren't in full force yet by the time I was there, luckily), there is a ton of history and natural beauty. As for history, there are all sorts of pirate stuff (ship wrecks, museums, etc.), civil war place markers, nautical landmarks, and of course Kitty Hawk, location of the first heavier-than-air, self-propelled manned flight. The natural beauty of the area comes in the form of gorgeous beaches and dunes, back water channels, and great wet lands. There are birds galore as well, but I would only be showing my ignorance if I tried to identify them. The area protected in the National Park/Seashore/Whatever looks as if it has been that way forever, which is so interesting to see. When cars weren't flying by, I sometimes would just stop* and marvel at how calming that bit of gorgeous nature was.

Yep, next time I pass this way, I will allot much more time for beach sitting, nature walking, and pizza eating*. (Oh, and for all you schralpers, there is plenty of gnar to be shralped*.)
Wednesday April 16 2008File under: travel, USA

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