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Tuesday, November 30, 2004


New Jersey town names mystified

Growing up in New Jersey, I couldn’t help noticing that a lot of the town names sound the same. And I’m not talking about Oakland and Oaklyn, or Belmar and Bellmawr, or even Hopatcong and Pohatcong. This also isn’t about the fact that there are five Washington Townships and one Washington Boro, as well as four Franklin Townships and one Franklin Boro. No, I’m talking about the fact that many of NJ’s 566 municipalities were named as if only a handful of words were approved for use in naming towns. If that was indeed the case, wood was clearly acceptable, as was ridge — so now we have Ridgewood and Wood-Ridge. And Park Ridge. And Ridgefield. And Ridgefield Park. Keep in mind this is all in a state about as big as a wad of chewing gum.

Anyway, someone reminded me of this the other day, and for some reason I began picturing the state in terms of a Venn diagram. Some 80 towns in NJ have at least one of nine basic components in their name. This is by no means a complete representation of the lack of creativity at work in the state, which would require a few more circles. But with a few well-chosen additions to the chart — bridge, brook, and lawn come to mind — I think most of the non-Indian town names in New Jersey could be related to each other in this way.

Click the picture to see a bigger version.

NJ towns
Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Site news

Firefox: Oh happy day

To all the Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox users out there, I’m sorry. The most recent version of this site never really worked quite right with your software. I could never get the background layer at the top of most pages to show up in Mozilla. The problem got put aside for a while.

With the recent 1.0 release of the excellent Firefox browser, I decided to have another try at solving the issue. Everything should show up properly from now on.

So now I can say it: If you’re a peecee user and still using Internet Explorer, get your Firefox on, pronto. Come to think of it, there are some minor visual elements of this site that don’t work on IE, and there’s only one solution to that: Don’t use IE.

Sunday, November 21, 2004


That’s not a telescope

This is a telescope. Couldn’t even get the whole thing in frame.

big scope

This is the 36-inch refractor telescope at the Lick Observatory just east of San Jose. Built in 1880-something, it’s often described by astronomers as ginormous. Oh, and Bay Area philanthropist James Lick is entombed in the telescope’s foundation.

Lick Observatory

As much as the building looks like it should be surrounded by a campus, it sits fairly alone on the remote peak of Mount Hamilton, 4300 feet above San Jose. There are several other observatories clustered nearby, but bugger-all else but a sickeningly tortuous road that winds up the mountain. I lost count of the hairpin turns. The road would be a blast to drive if it were any more than about 12 feet wide.


And in a moment that made me regret my no-cameras-while-driving policy, I passed my first coyote on the way down. Looked like a large, unwashed dog with huge stiff ears that stuck out like Bozo’s hair.

Friday, November 12, 2004


Flew to New England for a wedding

Mendocino church

Or did I drive to Mendocino for that wedding? To be honest, I’m still a little hazy on the details of last weekend. But I’m sure it will all come back to me as I work on posting the photos, which I hope to do this weekend.

Wednesday, November 3, 2004


Fooled you twice?

Then shame on you. I mean, 2000 was one thing, but I find it astonishing that after four years, a majority of Americans really think President Bonehead is the best man for the job. I almost wish he had just stolen the election, because that would have been less disheartening.

On the other hand, a California governor named Gray Davis was reelected, too. But it didn’t take much time before the people yanked him out of office. Since California often sets political trends for the rest of the nation (and not just lefty stuff like medicinal marijuana, either — voters here passed a same-sex marriage ban four years ago!), maybe the cretin-in-chief isn’t as secure in his job as it would seem. A pipe dream? Of course. But whatever gets you through the dark, four-year night, you know?