Miscellaneous

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I Am Fat

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WARNING – weight-related, fitness rant ahead. I promise not do do this often.

There. I said it. I’m fat.

That’s a hard reality to admit out loud. I’ve always hedged a bit by admitting that I’m a bit overweight, but it’s time to face hard facts. I’ve got to lose fifty pounds to get back down to a comfortable weight, and even then I’ll STILL be on the heavy side.

Here’s a comparison. The photo below shows two images of me and Laura. The one on the left was taken in the mid-1990’s. The one on the right was taken this past December.

TomLauraCombined

So, you see, I wasn’t always this way. I know people gain weight as they age, but this is not good.

For most of my early life I was so skinny that people got worried. This photo from the early 1980’s shows how skinny I really was. (more…)

Sprucing up the Joint

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Every now and then you need to toss a new coat of paint on the place.  It’s no different with blogs.  They can get stale after awhile and need a bit of updating.  I figured that a ten-year anniversary was as good a time as any to change things up here.

I’ve switched over to the Meadow Hill template for WordPress by Tomas Toman.  It’s a flexible format that looks great whether your accessing the site from a desktop or mobile device.  I’ve also added a whole bunch of background header images that rotate randomly upon reload.

The side widgets are still there, but don’t appear until you click on one of the “Read More” buttons to view the entire article.  Then you’ll see the “Recent Visitors”, “Recent Tweets”, the search box, and any other goodies.

I had a couple of requirements for the new appearance.  First, the fonts needed to be more adjustable and have a bit more space than my old theme.  The site was hard to read.  I probably could have gone into the CSS for the site and changed it myself, but why bother.  This one has about the same size font, but is double-spaced for easier reading.  I may bump up the font size at some time.

Secondly, the site needed to be able to display lead images without those hateful “Featured Images” that WordPress uses.  The latest version of WordPress did allow designation of a featured image by URL, but to get it to work with Flickr required too many hoops.

So, this is what we have now.  I think I’ll live with it for awhile and see if I like it.  If you follow the site via RSS feed or some other reader you probably won’t see any difference.  However, if you actually visit the site you’ll spot the new look right away.

The Phantom of Genevieve’s

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Phantom of the Opera Program

Photo by Carin Perretta

Continuing the impossibly busy weekend…

Today we had friends drop by for a visit. We were happy to have Steve and Linda Serkiz come by for coffee. I hadn’t seen them in years. I was at Furman with both of them, and Steve was in one of Laura’s first classes that she taught there. Steve is now down at the Savannah River Site as a research scientist, doing some very cool things with carbon nano tubes and other nano technology. I may have to wrangle a visit so that I can get a closer look at Ellenton and some of the other SRS ghost town sites.

In the evening I was supposed to be two places at once. I was SUPPOSED to be singing the National Anthem at the Greenville Drive game with the Greenville Chorale. However, the opportunity to attend Phantom of the Opera at the Peace Center came up, and we opted for that instead. (more…)

Great Scots Parade in a Mini Convertible

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Great Scot Parade Minis-008

Great Scot! Parade in front of the Westin Poinsett Hotel

This Memorial Day weekend actually started Thursday morning, and it’s just barely getting started. So far I’ve been kayaking, gone to a midnight movie to see X-Men: Days of Future Past, attended a history lecture on old maps, looked for mythical meteors, visited an Irish pub, and had coffee and a great visit with old friends – and it’s only Saturday. The highlight so far, though, has been our participation in the Great Scot! Parade through downtown Greenville with the Upstate Minis.

A couple of weeks ago Jeff Goodman had posted on the Upstate Minis Facebook page about the group participating in the parade. I asked Laura if she were interested, and she jumped at the chance. So, Friday afternoon a little after 5:00 we lined up with ten other Minis on Townes Street. We would bring up the rear of the parade.

Great Scot Parade Minis-6 (more…)

Momentous Weekend

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As a follow-up to my “too busy to post” post, thought I’d explain some of the goings on that I couldn’t discuss prior to the events. In that previous post I mentioned that Furman Commencement and the Greenville Chorale Concert were scheduled for the same time. What I didn’t mention was that I was supposed to be at both of those events.

Here’s the deal – Laura won the Meritorious Advising Award for Furman University this year. The award recognizes professors and administrators that have worked with students in planning their coursework throughout the year. In 2009 Laura had won the Meritorious Teaching Award. Now she has received both of Furman’s top honors. (more…)

Standard “Too Busy to Post” Post

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How many things can be crammed into one weekend? On the agenda for this one upcoming there’s Mother’s Day, a kayaking trip with Lowcountry Unfiltered, a photo walk with the Upstate Photographers, Artisphere is happening in downtown Greenville, it’s Furman Commencement…

…and, oh yeah, we have a concert at the Peace Center Saturday night and Sunday after noon with the Greenville Chorale and Greenville Symphony Orchestra, with rehearsals Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning.

I think I have an excuse not to post anything elaborate, although I’ve got a few things on various back burners.

As for the concert, we’re doing “Music from the Heavens” which includes the Poulenc Gloria, Verdi’s Stabat Mater and a piece from Aida, and Mascagni’s Easter Hymn. Edvard Tchivzhel is conducting, and he is taking maddeningly fast tempi as he usually does. That way the bad notes don’t last as long, as I used to tell my choirs. The music is challenging, but it should be a good concert. I have a very brief semi-solo bit with the men of the Chamber Ensemble in the second half of the show, but only for a couple of measures. There are two of us on a part, so I guess in a group this size, that qualifies as a “solo” ;-)

Rehearsals are exhausting. Monday we started working with Tchivzhel. Either his English is getting better, or we’re learning how to interpret his thick Russian accent. We seemed to understand him a bit better. Now I’ll have to see if I can get through these next few crazy days without losing my voice.

Ten Years of Random Connections

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RandomConnections10Years

It hardly seems possible. This month marks ten years that I’ve been blogging at RandomConnections.com. The new website was announced on May 6, 2004 on a post on my previous website as follows:

I have a new website….

www.RandomConnections.com will be online shortly. The new site will be the host for my web log (which will be replicated here, as it always has) but I wanted something without my name plastered all over the place. I’ll move my workshop information to the new site, and leave all my personal stuff here – resume, personal interests, etc., etc. The only personal item on the new site will be the blog.

With the new site in place, I’ll be able to create blog entries for specific categories, probably one for each of my alter egos that I use on various bulletin boards. I’m also going to post our travelog and vacation gallery there.

I love the Internet! Instead of boring just one small set of humans with your vacation pictures, you can annoy the entire planet!

The first post on the actual site was on May 14, and went something like this

The new website is now active (Duh, obviously). This site features a much more interactive weblog than my old site, while keeping things lean and clean. The other site turn [sic] into self-indulgent blathering, was over-designed, and cumbersome. I make no guarantees about this site, but at least the blathering will be categorized.

I also don’t intend to plaster my name over everything on this site. Certain portions will be kept more professional, and will focus on Education Technology and Web Design.

Yes, both of those posts are still online, as evidenced by the links above.   I haven’t fulfilled the promises in those early posts, but I had no idea I’d still be doing this ten years later, or what those ten years would have brought.
(more…)

The Anonymity of a Common Name

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One nice thing about having a VERY common name is that I’m harder to track down online. If you do a Google search for my name I’m fairly far down on the list. Throw in a couple of variables, such as kayak, photography, or music, and it might get you a bit closer, but you’re still going to have to know a good bit about me already in order to simply Google my name and find me.

I’ve come across another interesting twist, though. This dilemma can be summarized by the opening line from Harry Chapin’s “Corey’s Song”…

Old John Joseph was a man with two first names…

Here’s a link to the YouTube video, if you want to hear the song.

Regardless, apparently I also have two first names. This was brought home by an encounter with a young waitress the other day. She was rather chatty, and when I handed her my credit card she said, “My boyfriend’s name is Taylor. Our other waitress is also named Taylor.”

Well, isn’t that nice.

…but, a light bulb went on. Several times recently when I’ve given my name, I’ve had it repeated back to me as “Taylor Thomas” rather than “Thomas Taylor.” This happened when I gave my name for my hotel reservation last weekend, and they had a hard time finding my reservation. It’s happened when I’ve tried to pick up prescriptions, and when I’ve ordered pizza for delivery. The name “Taylor” has become more popular as a first name than “Thomas”, so I guess people of a certain generation assume that “Taylor” must be my first name.

Oh well. It’s funny how generation gap discrepancies hit you at the oddest times and most unusual ways. At least I don’t have an odd name like “Agnes” or “Hortense”, but the way things are going, one of those might become common again. At least “Thomas” is from a biblical source, and those names tend not to fall out of favor.

…except, maybe for Judas, Ebenezer, Boaz, Hanan, Ephai, Jorah, Asaiah, Zebedee, Laban, Banoni…etc., etc.

Live Steam

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Model Steam Trains-47

Sandy River Narrow Gauge Engine

Last week fellow singer and explorer Tommy Thompson had been invited to tag along with one of his friends, Steve Baker, as they visited Jim Pitts, retired chaplain of Furman University and expert on live steam model railroading. I knew Jim from when I was a student at Furman, and we’ve have kept up with each other through Laura in the many years since then. Tommy invited me to come with them as a tag-along tag along. I jumped at the chance.

We started with breakfast at the Travelers Rest Inn, then headed on up to Jim Pitts’ house in Travelers Rest. Steve was running a bit late, so Jim invited us in and gave us a tour of his extensive collection. The first room we entered had shelves lining the walls and cases with multiple types of model engines. Jim gave us a running description of each.

Steve arrive in time to join us for coffee and doughnuts, after which Jim took us out to see the rest of his collection. We thought we had already seen it, but there was a separate garage out back with even more trains. (more…)

New Themes and Updates

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I’ve decided it’s time to throw a fresh coat of paint on this place. I’ve had the same theme on this website for several years, and I’ve been looking at some new ones. Over the next several days, if you visit the site rather than read it in an RSS reader or Flipboard or something, you may see that it looks different. It will be as if I’m trying on different outfits – some may linger for awhile, and some may be uncomfortable enough for me to take off right away.

One problem is that the fonts on the current theme seem a bit small. I’ve been looking at several that have better readability. While I’ve found several designs that I like, the biggest problem is with WordPress’s use of “featured images.” You may have noticed that I like to have one large image at the start of the blog post, and I embed smaller images throughout the post. This is to minimize the amount of scrolling one has to do (which is already quite a bit.) If you want to see a larger version of the image, all you have to do is click on it.

I started doing this long before WordPress implemented their Featured Image protocol. In WordPress, and image can be designated as the featured image, and that image will show up in a variety of formats throughout the theme that your using.

The problem is that the featured image MUST be an image uploaded to the WordPress gallery. It cannot be on another site referenced by URL. That means I can’t use any of my Flickr images as Featured Images. I would have to re-upload that image to my WordPress gallery.

I set up my Flickr account specifically to house photographs for this website ‘way back in 2006. I had been keeping my photos on the same site, but managed them through a home-grown system that used ASP and an MS-Access database. I had limited web space, so moving to Flickr let me store photos there, and just use the local space for written content. It worked quite well. Drive space is now cheap, but I write quite a bit and take lots of photos. I still think I’d run low on space locally. Even if I weren’t worried about space, I’d have to upload the images to two different locations, which would slow up my workflow.

I’m sure I’ll find something that will work. I may even just go into the CSS for the them I’m using and change the font size. How hard can it be?

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