Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Mice on Main Scavenger Hunt in Culpeper Virginia

We were planning a day trip to Culpeper, VA in July 2021 and heard about the new "Mice on Main" promotion that they recently set up. It is a scavenger hunt in the Main Street area. The activity turned out to be more difficult than we expected, and there is not much information about it on the internet. We also asked several shopkeepers about the activity and they had no awareness of it. So this blog post will hopefully be helpful for future visitors trying out this fun event.

There are seven mice hidden at historic locations in town, and seven clues to help with finding them. The first thing to know is that the clues go in order from North to South, starting just North of Spencer St and ending about a half mile to the South at Mason St. The second thing to know is that you are looking for some very small mouse figurines. Some will be easy to find, because they are in shop windows that you can walk up to. But others are perched up high and only visible from far away.

Here are the clues and (spoiler alert) where to find the hidden mice:

1. "OTIS could have gotten mail here back in the day. Now, it's where people go when they have something important to say."

This mouse is located above and to the right of the main entry door to the municipal building on 302 N Main St. It is visible from the steps in front of the building.

2. "MELODY mouse is a bit of a rebel. In her music lessons she gets into treble. Her home sounds like a real treasure. She enjoys every sharp and flat in each measure."

This mouse is located in the window display at Jewell Tone Music on 203 N Main St. You'll have to look carefully to see it!

3. "My name is PENNY and I love to count my money. It makes me feel carefree, happy, wise, and funny. One day I hope to buy a big boat, but for now I live in a place where you vote."

We think this mouse is at the Culpeper Treasurer's Office at 151 N Main St. This is the only mouse that we were not able to find. If you find it, please leave a comment on this post as we would like to know where it was!

4. "Say Cheese! CHEESE the mouse is glamorous and everyone knows, she goes to the studio and strikes a pose."

You can easily see this mouse by looking in the front window of Studio C Photography at 142 N Main St.

5. "FRIEDA is great at art, that's what people claim. Cheese sat for a portrait, Frieda painted it and bought a frame."

You can easily see this mouse by looking in the front window of Village Frameworks & Gallery at 206 S Main St. When facing the shop, go to the window to the right of the main entrance. (Assuming the mouse is not moved from where we found it.)

6. "TONY thought he could come here to sing and dance. He didn't know that the Sangria here could lead to romance."

There is a restaurant called The Sangria Bowl. It is above the old State theater at 305 S Main St. This mouse is hard to find, but we think it is located on the red section of the column that says "STATE", a few feet above the "AIR CONDITIONED" words. See if you can spot it!

7. "Next door to the oldest house in town, COTTONTAIL the mouse may be found. Once a local museum, you can come here to see him."

This mouse is located in one of the dormer windows. It is visible from the front of the building without too much difficulty. Stop by the Burgandine House next door. The caretakers there are very nice. Ask them to show you which one of the muskets in the upstairs room is an authentic one.

If you want to see pictures of any of the mice, drop a note in the comments and I will send to you.



Thursday, February 20, 2020

Verizon Hotspot/Tethering Issue on Samsung Galaxy S7

I do a lot of tethering on my android phone (currently Samsung Galaxy S7 with Verizon wireless).

Occasionally it will not let me turn on the mobile hotspot. Usually this is resolved by trying again, or re-starting the phone, or making sure I don't have a monthly data usage limit set that I might have exceeded (since I am not on an unlimited data plan).

This past week, nothing was working. It went over 24 hours without letting me turn on the hotspot. I kept getting the message:

          "checking subscription status" 

followed eventually by:

          "unable to connect at this time"

I looked online for solutions, but did not find anything relevant in the forums. I finally figured out that the hotspot started working again after I went to Settings / Connections / Data usage, and turned on "alert me about data usage". I don't understand why you should have to have this setting enabled to use the hotspot, but apparently you do.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

What To Do When Someone Shares a Song (or Video) With You

Occasionally a friend will come up to you and offer to share a song or video. For example, they will hand you their phone and start playing a YouTube video. Here are the three things you should do in this situation:

1. Listen to the whole song

Yes, everyone knows you are busy and do not have 3 minutes to listen to this unexpected material from another person. And we know that you have certain things that you like and this may not be it. But be a good friend and just listen to the whole song. Do not stop it a third of the way through. This is insulting to your friend. Also do not click on the screen while it is playing to see how much time is left. If you need to do this, click to do a short rewind and say "I want to hear that part again". Then you can check the time remaining while indirectly complimenting your friend's song at the same time.

2. Say something nice about the song

At the end of the song, say something positive about it. Make it something specific - not just "that was nice, I liked it". Even if you are not a music expert, you can always find something. For example, "I liked how they modified the chorus each time" or even "it made me feel a little emotional towards the end". Your friend will appreciate that you were putting some thought into the song while listening.

3. Don't try to steal the show

Your friend is very happy that you listened to the entire song and had something nice to say about it. Now your tendency may be to pick a different song to play for your friend. You might say something like "that was good, but I like this song from their next album even better". Try to resist this temptation. If you have some relevant observation that is directly related to the song from your friend, that is fine. Otherwise, let the encounter be all about your friend this time.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Review: Back To Black: A Tribute to Amy Winehouse

Allison Polans, vocals
Imani Roach, vocals
Ryan Williams, vocals
Ginger Coyle - vocals
Martha Stuckey - vocals
Ginghy Miles - vocals
Dan Finn, keyboards
Adam Zielinski, guitar
Drew Parker, guitar
Nate Gonzalez, guitar and keyboards
Vince Tampio, trumpet
Mike Kania, tenor saxophone
Thor Espanez, baritone saxophone
Brendan McGeehan, bass
Alec Meltzer, drums

I had the distinct pleasure of seeing "Back To Black: A Tribute to Amy Winehouse" at the Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland on August 24, 2018. For big fans of Amy Winehouse (like myself) who never got to see her perform, this was a sublime experience. For others, I imagine it may be a mixed bag. The show is the brainchild of Allison Polans and Imani Roach, two singers from Philly (my hometown) who wanted to make a tribute to Amy while donating proceeds to her foundation. One thing for certain is that the admiration for Amy was clearly evident, from both the performers and the audience. (The couple standing next to me was singing along to every word, and the guy boosted his cred with a large Amy tattoo along his right torso.)

The first half of the show featured several songs from Frank (Winehouse's "other" album) and a few miscellaneous B-sides. Then the stars aligned for the wonderful performance of "Back To Black", in precise order from the album, start to finish. Finally, the group came out for two encores - the spirited "Valerie" and then the ensemble leading the audience in "Amy, Amy, Amy".

How do you solve the problem of handling Winehouse's massive vocal range? The innovative solution here was to have six different singers rotating in and out throughout the show, each bringing their own sensibilities and life experience to the task. After each song, a new "Amy" came out for the next one.

The first Amy to take the stage was Ginger Coyle. She looked (and dressed) the most like Amy. She truly shined on "You Know I’m No Good", possibly the highlight of the evening as she writhed on the floor just in front of us in the front row. She also performed "Our Day Will Come", "Mr. Magic (Through The Smoke)", "Best Friends Right", and "Tears Dry On Their Own". Her attitude was spot on.

Next was Imani Roach, whose songs included "Just Friends", "October Song", "Stronger Than Me", and then closing out the show with "Addicted". Along with Williams and Poland, she was most spectacular when doing background vocals, which she did throughout the show.

Allison Polans formed the backbone of the show, performing the titular "Back To Black", as well as "Valerie", "What Is It About Men", and the heartbreaking "Love is a Losing Game". She handled the lower registers of the Winehouse ouevre with great skill and emotion.

Ryan Williams stepped in for two of the earlier songs, "Will You Stil Love Me Tomorrow" and "F*** Me Pumps". He was outstanding, even though he did not sport the thick corner-flared eye liner of the other Amys.

Martha Stuckey (who also performs with the band Red 40 & The Last Groovement), was a bit out of place as she had more of a Kelly Clarkson vibe, lacking some of the coolness of Amy that the others brought to the stage. However, she delivered good vocal performances on the gritty "Take the Box" and "Me & Mr Jones".

The low point of the show was Ginghy Miles. She began with "In My Bed", resulting in a hot mess which she could not keep up with. The band played on adroitly, and Miles jumped in and out when she could grab on. She apologized at the end of the song, and said she would get the next one. But then she had similar struggles on "Cherry", which she actually stopped at one point and re-started from the beginning. Fortunately, she managed to make it all the way through "Rehab", which is good since for the casual fans in the audience this is likely the only song of the evening that they would recognize.

If I could have added anything to the show, it would have been great to hear this crew take on "Monkey Man" or "Between the Cheats". But they certainly covered all of the essential songs. Since Amy only released two albums, this show was able to cover almost all of her work in two hours time.

Among the band, Meltzer was fantastic on drums. He effortlessly played through all of the jazzy tempo changes and the multitude of performers. Also standing out was Finn on keyboards. Of course an Amy Winehouse show is all about vocals, but the entire band was excellent as well.

In summary, on behalf of the audience I would like to thank all of the above performers for putting this show together and taking it on the road to the DC area. It was a true pleasure to witness, and I would look forward to seeing it again if they are able to keep it going in Philly. I think Amy would have been proud of this tribute to her, and if she were in the crowd she would have certainly grabbed several stiff drinks and sang along.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Alone: A Love Story

I’ll never forget where I was the first time I heard the song Oh, The Divorces! by Tracey Thorn. It’s one of those songs where you hear those first three plaintive notes repeating on the piano and instantly know that you’ll have to stop what you’re doing and hear it out. Midway through the first verse, the sadness starts washing over you:

And each time I hear who's to part
I examine my heart
See how it stands
Wonder if it's still in safe hands
Ms. Thorn is reminding us of that gut-check moment when we hear of a divorce and it makes us question everything that we thought we knew about ourselves. Towards the end of the song, the imagery becomes almost unbearable:

And oh, oh, oh
The honeymoon, the wedding ring
Oh, oh oh
The afternoon handovers by the swings
I recently listed to the entirety (seasons 1 and 2) of Alone:A Love Story. In this podcast, Michelle Parise takes it to another level by sharing with the listener her personal and heartbreaking divorce story. You could take each word from the aforementioned song (honeymoon, ring, swings, charmer, karma, …) and rest assured it is covered in great detail in these episodes.

If you happen to be someone with empathy, this podcast is not an easy listen. Perhaps the primary message in season 1 is that there is so much pain and anguish in this world, it may be more than humanity can bear. You can sense that Ms. Parise carefully prepares each line, like a chef seeking the ripest fruit, until is dripping with raw emotion. She casually drops in phrases like “why do we have the capacity to be so cruel to the ones we love?”. And truth be told, I find that the closer I get to Ms. Parise as the story goes on, the more my heart is aching along, right on cue.

By episode 6, the listener quickly learns about a level of grief that transcends essentially everything. In a particularly memorable incident in episode 7, even a random road rage incident is no match for the power of a sadness that ultimately brings the two unexpected combatants together in their humanity. The segment ends with the stark realization that “Sometimes a total stranger believes in you more than the one you love most”.

When my friends and I watched the Twin Peaks reboot last year, the penultimate episode was so amazing and complete that we briefly considered not even watching the final episode for fear that it could not possibly top what we had just seen. And in some ways I wish we hadn’t. The final episode went in a completely different direction, and opened up a lot of questions that will never be answered.

In much the same way, season 2 of Alone: A Love Story takes a different turn. Although it was no less entertaining than the first season, it changed the themes around and made it difficult to reconcile what to think of the decisions made by our protagonist. And of course it ended with a lot of open questions, which we are now left waiting to see if they might be answered in future episodes. It is a bit titillating to know that, as I write this and as you read it, our hero is living out the life that we may one day get to hear about (or perhaps not).

There were several interesting choices made in this podcast. The first was brilliant. The “bomb” that is going to be dropped is revealed right at the beginning, before it happens. This allows the listener to avoid treating the story like a mystery, and to focus on it for what it is – a real-time, first person account of a tragedy and its repercussions. There is also a nice static audio effect that makes it easy for the listener to keep track of when the narrator is bouncing forward and back in time.

The second choice is one that I’m not sure about. All of the male characters in the story are referred to as inanimate objects. One is “The Scientist”. Another is “The Man in the White Shirt”. And so on. I suppose it does make it easier to keep track of the characters, and avoids the baggage that comes with using names (or fake names). Maybe since it’s her real life, Ms. Parise couldn’t legally or morally use real names. Anyhow, it comes off a bit strange, but does give it a unique feel.

Of course over time we come to realize that the title of the podcast reveals exactly what we are all rooting for – which is that our friend can fight through her demons and finally embrace living alone. She is still struggling through this when season 2 runs out. For now we can only hope that, like any great love story, it will have a happy ending – and that we will someday get to hear it!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Jigsaw Puzzles With Pre-Completed Pieces

A friend posed the following question the other day -

When you open a new jigsaw puzzle and you find a few pieces that are still connected, should you pull them apart or leave them connected and consider it a free bonus?

This was my answer:

Imagine a hypothetical example where you open the box and ALL of the pieces are connected. You could just flatten out the puzzle and it is complete. By definition, you would have to break apart the pieces in this case, because doing the puzzle requires that you visually figure out how the pieces fit together. Now imagine the same scenario, but this time only 999 of the pieces are connected. Surely any rational actor would agree that only the fool would triumphantly pop in the final piece and declare that he had done the puzzle. Continuing with this logic, you can keep reducing the size of the pre-connected clump by one. Now the question simply becomes: for what minimum value (n) would this same logic no longer apply, such that you should flip your behavior and not break up the completed pieces? I would argue that selecting any value of n greater than one would be arbitrary and capricious. Thus, you must take the pieces apart.

Sadly, my friend decided to go with the crowd consensus which was to leave the pre-connected pieces and not pull them apart. This despite nobody coming up with a counter-argument to my logic above.

Monday, January 01, 2018

New Years Resolutions

2020: Do everything with pure intentions
2019: Create a crossword puzzle that meets New York Times standards
2018: Be more precise with my language
2017: Try not to complain about things
2016: Have a positive attitude
2015: Put all tasks in task manager
2014: Do the things that you ought to do
2013: If you make a mistake, or almost make a mistake, immediately put a process in place that will prevent you from making the same mistake in the future
2012: If you agree to do something for someone, do it right away
2011: Hear everything that people say
2009: Make use of the things I have
2008: Be mindful of daily goals list every night
2007: Watch a maximum of one sporting event per week (week runs Sun-Sat). There are two exemptions: watching with others in a social setting, or watching while exercising.
2006: (1) Do not watch the 11:00 local news (2) Finish reading the Sunday paper by Tuesday night
2005: Never place anything in a location where it could cause a problem if left there
2004: Perform any activity immediately if it will take less than 1 minute

Permanent resolutions:
(1) Maintain an even and calm temperament
(2) Think without deceit
(3) Tell the truth at all times
(4) Do right by others
(5) Temperance in food/drink
(6) Moderation in all things
(7) Tranquility