Recent Fun Observations From Maps

screenshot of the Apple Maps app on my phone showing the route line passing beneath an overpass with color and transparency adjusted accordingly

On my way back from Wisconsin this past weekend I tried to catch a few screenshots from the maps app on my smartphone (safely!) as I noticed some fun street names.

screenshot from Apple Maps showing a street named Bogus Rd SE
screenshot from Apple Maps showing a street named McJunkin Rd
screenshot from Apple Maps showing a street named Nicelytown Rd

And finally, I noticed a nifty little detail when I was closer to a major metropolitan area (Chicago in this case): the map gained more 3D detail and, to my surprise, the route line passed beneath overpasses with color and opacity adjusted accordingly:

screenshot from Apple Maps showing the route line passing underneath a translucent overpass above the highway

Not seen is that the indicator for my current position would also adjust when passing beneath an overpass. I’m sure people would rather have more accurate data and directions within Apple Maps, but I’m sure the visual design team isn’t responsible for that functionality, and I always appreciate these sort of details. They aren’t strictly necessary, but they add a nice bit of fun and a subconscious signal of attention to detail.

The Simple Pleasures of Something Different

the sign for organ piper pizza in greenfield, WI
The lit-up sign for Organ Piper Pizza near Milwaukee, WI

I’m up in the Milwaukee, WI area with my family for Thanksgiving. Earlier this week we went out to dinner at a restaurant called Organ Piper Pizza in Greenfield, just outside of town. It’s been open since 1976 and is, apparently, only one of 3 places like it left in the states. This place had me smiling ear-to-ear from the moment I saw the old sign with flashing lights and its mock Tudor exterior. The smile only widened as we heard the classic organ sounds and watched the flashing lights, quacking ducks, and mechanically-actuated percussion around the room.

Was the food any good? It was fine – exactly what you’d want at a family pizza place. Tavern-style pie that was crispy and tasty, and soda by the pitcher. The kids loved it and so did all the adults. If I lived near this place I’d be here every few months to be sure.

And hats off to Perry Petta, the organist. That man is a treasure.

Perry Petta plays the pipe organ in the Organ Piper Pizza restaurant

High Bridge, Low Thrills

fog rising over the Appomattox River seen from the High Bridge on the High Bridge Trail
Entrance to the High Bridge Trail State Park off Main Street in Farmville, VA
Main Street entrance to the trail in Farmville, VA

This past Saturday I took a drive down to Farmville with my bike. I wanted to test my cycling endurance a bit with my longest ride yet: out and back to Burkeville, the eastern end of the High Bridge Trail. This was just over 30 miles and it left me a little bow-legged, even with some nice cushy chamois liners.

The trail itself leaves a lot to be desired. Don’t get me wrong – the weather was gorgeous, and being outside on my bike (especially without having to dodge traffic) is better than not, but the trail isn’t all that exciting. Excepting the eponymous high bridge and its views, there wasn’t too much to see.

Morning fog over the Appomattox River as viewed from an overlook platform on the High Bridge of the High Bridge Trail
At least I had some beautiful, breathtaking foggy views from the bridge itself!
Foggy trees around the Appomattox River as seen from the High Bridge on the High Bridge Trial.

A persistent tree canopy rose over my head, just a week or so past peak fall foliage, and the path only turned occasionally. Most bewildering was the end of the trail in Burkeville – nothing but a lonely picnic table and no clear way to reach the trail directly at that end other than the trail itself!

My bike leans up against a lonely picnic table at the Burkeville end of the High Bridge Trail.

Still, I feel a sense of accomplishment for having ridden that far. My previous longest ride was a little more than 22 miles (On a single speed! Around the city!), and I really get the effort on this one. The grade was pretty easy over the entire ride, but pedaling that long and sitting my obese frame on a bike saddle for over 3 hours was as much a mental exercise as physical.

I only wish I’d had more to photograph!

The One You Have With You

looking east down the train tracks in the middle a level crossing on Hermitage Ave. north of Leigh Street in Richmond, VA

This past Friday was my birthday and I decided to walk the 2.5 miles from my home to the restaurant where my family would later meet me for dinner. The weather was gorgeous, so I took my DSLR with me. I didn’t get much, but I figured since I had the time and no pressure, I’d rather have more than my iPhone on hand if I saw something interesting.

A bicycle locked to a metal fence decorated with plants and overgrowing with vines.


Mickey Mouse mural on a Main Street garage in Richmond, VA

I’ve been quite a bit more active lately taking strolls around town. Yesterday, while my car was in the shop I was able to enjoy a particularly beautiful morning and snapped some photos along the way around Richmond’s Fan District

New garage on Brunswick in The Fan
Mural of a woman on the side of a Park Avenue row house

Fighting Words

Jill Bearup is a stage combatant with training in the art of fake fighting. Her YouTube channel has evolved over the years from from an assortment of topics to a tighter focus on all things stage/TV/cinematic fighting, whether it’s about weapons and reach, the absurdity of certain stylistic/armor choices in a fight, or how to defend yourself with a hat pin.

But my favorite format of Bearup’s videos are those which appear to be analysis of particular fights from TV shows or movies, but really end up presenting a thoughtful video essay on characters, themes, and story within that media. Take the Avatar example at the top of this post: yes, Bearup speaks to the styles of combat and the shifting nature of the fight. But Avatar: The Last Airbender isn’t an animated documentary about martial arts; it’s a dramatic story with dynamic characters! So Bearup details how each combatant’s circumstances and character arcs inform their behavior and choices in this climactic duel. She speaks from a position of deep understanding of the show and the the motivations of each fighter. Watching this video gave me newfound understanding and appreciation for what was already my favorite sequence from the entire series.

It’s worth checking out her channel in general, but if you like media analysis/video essays and want a heavy dose of fight deconstruction along for the ride, you could do a lot worse than her examinations of Inigo and Wesley’s fight in The Princess Bride, or the throne room duel in The Last Jedi.

The Friends We Made Along the Way

Lately I’ve had a few things kicking around in my head that seem obvious, but I feel the urge to put them down in words on my blog for personal record and clarity. This one’s about friendships.

I’m 40 years old now and have seen quite a few relationships come and go, blossom and whither. I often think about what can help friendships get started and, more-so, what it takes to keep them going. Even if the right pieces are in place, some friendships eventually fade for a variety of reasons, but I feel like I’ve gained some insight since childhood on what has the capacity to sustain friendships for the long term. I still fail at this often enough myself, of course.

How it Started

Most friendships seem to be instigated by either a chance encounter, life circumstances, or some unifying social group. I think about a chance encounter like striking up a conversation with a stranger in a coffee shop that turns into an extended conversation, which results in the exchange of social media profiles and eventually a long-running friendship. We just happened to be in the same place at the same time and happened to interact.

Life circumstances accounted for most of my childhood friends. My best friend during elementary school was a boy who was in the same class with me, and we mutually tolerated/enjoyed each other’s quirky personalities and shared some common interests. Even if we weren’t always in the same class, we still attended the same school and lived in the same town, so it was easy for our parents to drive each to the other’s house, or meet up on the playground at recess.

Unifying social groups could be topical conventions which bring together like-minded and commonly-interested folks, predisposed to have at least a few things in common with each other by virtue of attendance. Whether it’s the campus ministry I participated in during undergrad, or a conference for people who make websites, these settings provide a lot of social shortcuts that can help strangers accelerate the whole getting-to-know-you part of a new relationship. I’ve made friends online this way where the unifying social factor was a mutual friend that started a podcast. I’m not religious anymore, but I still have quite a few friends I made during those college ministry days or in past church congregations.

I’m a Firestarter

“We have a lot in common.”

Common interests are like starter logs. They can get a friendship going, but you need more than that keep the fire burning. Most of the friendships of my youth and early adulthood were defined by common interests because so many young people wrap up their identities in their interests. Grunge rock. Making stuff. Beach life.

But most people don’t like all the same bands for their whole lives. Most people don’t want to do all the same activities, visit the same places, read the same genres of fiction. People change, and with personal change comes a new, or at least shifting, sets of interests. It’s entirely possible that your interests may shift with your friend’s, but it’s also possible you’ll run out of things to do and talk about if that’s most of the scope of your friendship.

I’m pretty sure that’s why my best friends from high school aren’t even acquaintances of mine today. We all went to separate colleges at different times and, when we came back together after an extended time apart, we’d all been shaped by new experiences, influenced by new people, and our tastes had changed in different ways. Those common interests were just about all we had between us, so there wasn’t much left when they no longer aligned. I don’t morn the loss because I recognize that none of us really did anything to split up the group. We just grew up and grew apart.

“Well, I gotta keep it going keep it going full steam”

If common interests are the fire starters, shared experiences and proactive communication are the fuel and oxygen, respectively.

With legal adulthood came increasing autonomy. Now I could travel, make some (limited) financial and social decisions on my own, and generally explore the world around me a bit more. I didn’t need my mom to drive me to my friend’s house to socialize. My friend and I could decide, together, that we wanted to drive up to New Jersey to see Weezer in concert one college summer. I’m not in to Weezer as much anymore (though their first two albums will always be some of my favorite music) and my friend was never as big a fan as I was, but we will always have that trip. We will always have that time spent traveling, sharing in the choices, consequences, and rewards of those days. Shared memories have the ability to unite us in ways that don’t change with our tastes.

But that same friend and I rarely talk anymore. We were best friends for years (and I dare say we could still pick right back up and have a helluva time together), but because the lines of communication have long run silent, we just don’t keep up with each other. There are loads of factors that can disrupt communication; with this friend I think it’s because we shifted into different stages of life. But what differentiates that friendship from the ones I still count as strong and active is that my still-healthy friendships include regular, two-way communication.

“I felt so symbolic yesterday”

I don’t think I’m saying anything profound here, and I’m certainly not speaking from a place of expertise. But I dunno, maybe it’s the kind of introspection that comes with the awareness of one’s own aging.

Thanks for reading, friend.