TFV #4 – So about that whole "write every week" thing....
Note: This is one of a small series of emails I sent as part of an email newsletter project in 2015-2016 called Tales from Voyager. Learn more, or browse the full collection.
It's been a while, eh? Better late than never, I suppose.
About a year ago I was in Boston for a (gasp) gaming convention. While there, I had the chance to catch up with a friend of mine who lives in the city, which involved taking the T back and forth a few times. I've ridden the T before, but there's one memory from that trip that stands out the most, and it isn't related to the convention at all, but to public transportation.
The second morning I was there, I was waiting at the Harvard Square T stop for an inbound red line train when I heard some music from the other end of the station platform. Metropolitan public transit systems and busking are about as complimentary as peanut butter and jelly, so at first I didn't really pay attention; but, after a few minutes of "background listening", something about the melody and the musician's obvious talent made me intrigued.
This is a video of the guy in question (not taken by me). Go ahead and click on it and let the music start before coming back to read the rest of this.
I've heard buskers before in many cities around the world, but for whatever reason that music just took a hold of me. I started walking over to the other end of the platform where I heard the music coming from to offer a few bucks (in what for me is an unfortunately rare contribution to public art). But, just as I was gearing up to throw a couple of dollar bills into whatever instrument case or hat-like receptacle the musician had, the train showed up, and I dashed to get on board.
It was about a 20 minute ride to my next stop that morning, and for the entire duration of the trip I couldn't help but think about the musician who I just missed. The song he was playing was stuck in my head, and I realized I wanted, nay needed to know the name of this artist. I debated going back to the Harvard Square stop, but instead took to my smartphone, thinking that someone as talented as that person was either (a) not a normal busker, or (b) good enough to be recognized by others.
Amazingly enough, Twitter came through. I searched for a combination of "guitar" and "boston T" and "boston subway" and all kinds of related things, until I came across one name: Garv Bomjan. If that wasn't amazing enough, I quickly learned that he was on Spotify, and that one of the songs on his only album was the one I heard at the subway stop a few minutes before. Surprised but satisfied, I proceeded to enjoy the rest of my weekend, and once it wound to a close spent some time listening to whatever I could find by Bomjan.
After I got home from Boston a few days later, I spent some time reflecting about that moment and how utterly serendipitous it was. From being in the right place at the right time to hear that music, to successfully finding the artist's name via Twitter, to being able to find a real album he had recorded. Today's "listen" link is to the song I heard that morning, called "It's Maya"; I still listen to it all the time. It reminds me of travel, and the amazing accidental discoveries that come with it.
I believe Garv Bomjan still plays at the Harvard Square stop pretty regularly. If you're ever in the area with a few minutes to spare, he's worth checking out.
John Oliver has been on a tear lately, and I have lately felt a need to share his gospel (just in case it hasn't been shared enough). So, I present some of my favorite John Oliver main bits:
John Oliver on Donald Trump
John Oliver on DC Statehood (woot!)
John Oliver on Fashion
John Oliver on DST
One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of my favorite books. I first read it in freshman year of high school when assigned an author at random for a book report project, and have re-read it many times since, in both academic and non-academic contexts. Vanity Fair recently did a great piece on the book and its author to commemorate its 50th anniversary that is worth a read itself.
As promised, "It's Maya" by Garv Bomjan (YouTube | Spotify). I know I mentioned this one song in particular, but the whole album is great - it has a really cool Eastern sound which I find unique given the use of layered guitars and a loop pedal for a lot of the music.
Continuing on the theme of cool data visualizations - I have two space-related dataviz for you today:
stuffin.space - Besides winning the award for one of the coolest domain names ever, this is an amazing real-time 3-D map of objects orbiting Earth. It has some great pre-defined views using the "groups" button at the top-left of the page, such as being able to see all GPS satellites. You can also search for any space object by international designator and determine where it is, e.g., the ISS (1998-067A), random DirecTV satellites (2014-078B), or the Hubble Space Telescope (1990-037B).
Line of Sight - Similar to the above, but a 2-D view focused more on visible satellites over a particular point on Earth, so you can tell what that dot flying across the sky really is.
I have a few more cool visualizations lined up for future newsletters so if you like these stay tuned!
Until next time (which is hopefully sooner than the last time I said that), see you space cowboy.