From Newfoundland to Ireland with Marconi

Winter, 1907. You live in Clifden in western Ireland, and your favorite way to spend the rare clear-skied evening (after a hard day of farming or herding or shopkeeping) is to walk up the hill to the monument.

The sunsets are gorgeous over the Atlantic ocean, and as dusk falls you can look south to see a man-made lightning show. Sparks dance over eight huge wooden masts marking a rectangle 1,000 feet long by 200 wide. The masts support 52 wires running lengthwise across the top, which fan down at one end into a single wire connected to a mysterious building. The entire apparatus is over 200 feet tall, and when the wind is right you might hear the electricity crackling.

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Mercury in the Bath

August, 2017: the sun is shining on the edge of North America, but the foghorn still cries its warning to the clouded sea. Two paired blasts per 60 seconds; a signature to identify location by sound. In the dark, you need to know which horn you’ve heard.

This is Cape Race lighthouse, which holds one of the last remaining hyper-radial Fresnel lenses ever made. Perched on the southern coast of Newfoundland, it offers the first sighting of land for ships crossing the Atlantic. Oh, and it’s got nearly 800 pounds of liquid mercury at the top.

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A visit to the Canadian National Patriarchy Museum

Last Thanksgiving, I decided to abdicate; I went to Victoria, BC for a long quiet weekend alone. I took myself out to high tea instead of Thanksgiving dinner. It was lovely.

To get to Victoria, I took the Clipper, which is a very nice three-hour ferry ride. It leaves from the north side of the Seattle waterfront at 8am, though, and I was told to be there by 7am. Because I’m me, that meant I needed to be there by 6:45am at latest, in case of traffic or unforeseen delays, and because of the Seattle transit system, that meant I had to take the bus that got me there at 6:10am (because it was either 6:10 or 6:50), which meant I had to leave at 5:40am, which meant I got up at 5:15am. Well, actually it meant I woke up at 5am and then got out of bed at 5:15am. And again, because I’m me, I went to sleep the night before at about 2:30am. Sooooo by the time I got to Victoria at 11am, I wasn’t thinking suuuuuper clearly, and I hadn’t eaten yet.

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