Thursday, May 01, 2008

Loose Bruce

Here's the set list for last night's Springsteen concert in Charlottesville (shh...don't tell all of those Wahoos that there were four Dukies standing on their basketball court...). Well, this was the planned set list. The actual set list reveals the kind of crazy Boss night it was, as there were a number of additions, deletions, and substitutions. Here's what was played:

Loose Ends
Radio Nowhere
No Surrender
Lonesome Day
The Promised Land
Gypsy Biker
For You
Adam Raised a Cain
Prove It All Night
She's the One
Livin' in the Future
Mary's Place
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home


Meeting Across the River
Born to Run
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
American Land

With so much in flux, the entire concert had a seat-of-the-pants feel to it. The epitome of this was when Bruce audibled No Surrender. You could see him running around the stage, telling the E Streeters about the change in plans. It took them a while to get it all straight, with Bruce joking to the crowd, "We're getting there!" Those are the fun Springsteen moments, when even the well-oiled E Street machine hangs on for dear life.

The heart of the show, for me, was guitars, guitars, guitars. Miami Steve really let it rip during Gypsy Biker, and Nils went even further with his extended lead during Prove It All Night (maybe the best solo I've ever seen...). And, for his part, Bruce played plenty of guitar against his microphone stand, during songs like Adam Raised a Cain.

What this boils down to, as I see it, is that Bruce and the band are genetically incapable of putting on a bad show. Sure, the set lists may vary from night to night, from tour to tour. And there are other variables as well--the crowd, where you are sitting/standing, the acoustics. But through all of this, the performances just can't be beat. July 27, Giants Stadium, here we come...


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Least Intuitive Store Ever

This morning, I had to make a quick stop at the store, to pick up a box of Claritin and some toilet paper. I walked into the Glenmont CVS, where I've been countless times, and straight away had no idea where to begin. Is the Claritin on the left-hand side or the right-hand side of the curvy walkway that goes through the middle of the store? What about the TP? Which way should I turn?

Now, if this were a grocery store (Giant, Safeway, Harris Teeter, whatever), I would have had no such orientation problems. You simply walk in the front door, figure out which way, say, the frozen aisles are, and immediately have a map of the entire place in your mind.

But this never happens with CVS, no matter how many times I walk in. I just don't have any intuition whatsoever as to how the place is laid out. To make matters worse, different types of CVSs are organized differently. Some haven't switched to the curvy walkway yet. Some have a fat aisle running vertically down the middle of the store as you walk in, while others have the fat aisle running horizontally across all of the aisles you see. Àiyá!

And I don't think I'm alone in my confusion, either. Some time back, I was wandering aimlessly through a CVS looking for who-knows-what, ranting out loud (hopefully to Desi!), when a woman walking down the aisle I was in started laughing and nodding her head in agreement. At least I'm pretty sure that's what she was doing!


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Darwin Says...

"Organisms compete for limited natural resources."

As I'm in the midst of teaching evolution to my biology students, this topic came up today and reminded me of something that was said to me about the theft of my purse last Saturday:

"I know why your purse was stolen," she said, "it's because of the economy."

Now while this is totally a lame-o reason to have my purse swiped, it does provide a valuable example for me to to use to explain the foundations on which Darwin's theory is based. As I read student's conceptions of evolution, I find that they really don't "get it." They may not think that Lamarckian views of evolution are plausible (acquired traits are passed on to a horse stretches his neck so he can get food and turns into a giraffe), they wind up explaining adaptations in just that way. It is difficult to get their minds around the concept because to understand evolution, you have to understand that individuals don't evolve, populations evolve. Variations only become adaptations when they provide an advantage to the individual who has them.

In this way, it was useful to be able to explain evolution in terms that the students could identify with. Yes, even humans compete for limited natural resources. Whether it's the case of "Leggo My Eggo," "First one to the clicker gets to choose the show," or even theft, the "environment" selects the most fit individuals. Believe you, me, next time a stronger "street sense" will prevail as I won't be leaving my purse hidden under the seat anymore.


Monday, April 28, 2008

"We Hope This Didn't Ruin Your Day."

Well, it didn't. But it sure did change things up a bit when someone from the land of "milk and honey" tried to "get my money"...

Last Saturday my craving for a country ride was quelled when Steve and the kids agreed that we could try a new bike trail in rural Pennsylvania. Around 30 miles Northwest of Lancaster we found a great rail trail that allowed us to ride through gorgeous farmland and beautiful woodlands. The trail head parking lot was in a very small town named Cornwall. Manicured lawns and Mennonite girls riding bikes in dresses set the scene.

After 20 miles of upgrades and downgrades, warm breezes and occasional breaks filled with the reading of "River Town," we returned to the car to find something we hadn't expected in this place...a broken side window on our mini-van and a missing purse.

Apparently the police didn't expect this in their small community either. When we called them they were absolutely livid. They explained that this had never happened here before. They encouraged me to watch my bank accounts for activity and to let them know what stores the cards were used in so they could retrieve the in-store cameras. They were obviously ready to get these individuals off their streets. After collecting all the necessary information they proceeded to clean up the glass and tape plastic over the space of the missing window. The kids have even greater respect for the men and women in blue, given their empathetic, good-Samaritan ways of treating us.

In all, this was a sad situation that had many ramifications (including a yucky new license picture for me, new direct deposit account numbers, and a day and a half of missed work), but we used it as an opportunity to show the kids how to react to adversity. We didn't freak out or rant and rave. Instead, we handled each frustration methodically. We figured, why add insult to injury? No one was hurt...everything could be replaced...and those buggers didn't get a wooden nickel since I had given Steve the cash from my purse before the ride in case we stopped on the trail for a snack! Realizing how situational attitudes can be passed on to offspring allowed us to keep our cool.

So "no" this didn't ruin our day at all. Monday (run-around-and-straighten-out-all-the-mess day) was not our favorite but the memory of a beautiful family day in rural Pennsylvania has no tarnish.