Thursday, May 4, 2017

Too Hard, Too Soft, Just Right – Erich

In astronomy there is a term: the Goldilocks Zone. It comes from the fairy tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Remember her? Goes into the home of the bears and steals their porridge. First one is too hot, next too cold, next just right. Same with chairs and beds: Too hard, too soft, and just right.

On this trip, I have learned to adjust my expectations as regards beds. When you are moving every few weeks, you get a new bed every few weeks. Some are hard. Goodness, East Asians like their beds hard! I mean, it's like a plank with a tiny bit of padding. Or no padding. Padding is for the weak! Some are soft and you sink and sink and sink. But all in all, I have learned that whatever bed I am in, I have to decide it is just right.

I've learned to be much more flexible on a lot of things. Pillow thickness and firmness, fat percentage of my milk, size of the spoons I have available with which to eat, brands of peanut butter, fuel source for cooking, and others.

But I'm off topic. In astronomy, the Goldilocks Zone has to do with how far a planet is from its star, depending on the size and output of the star. If it is too close, it can't support life because molecules like water would be boiled away. If it is too far, everything would be a solid. But if the planet falls in the Goldilocks Zone, there is a greater potential that it could support life. Or at least life like ours, built on carbon chains and filled with water.

I want to apply the idea of the Goldilocks Zone to "things to do." While in Ireland, I kissed the Blarney Stone. That in and of itself is fun, interesting. And, if legend is true, I should be growing far more eloquent from having done so. I'm not sure if that is only in speech or if it applies to writing as well. You will have to tell me in comments if this post has a certain mastery of rhetoric that was henceforth lacking or present only in diminished form.
The Blarney Stone is in that little gap way up on the parapet
But while in Blarney Castle, I saw a panel saying that according to some magazine kissing the Blarney Stone was in the top 99 things to put on your bucket list.

I personally am not a bucket list guy. But it got me thinking. What is it about an activity that determines whether or not it is amazing enough to be universally bucket listable? I'll let you ponder that for a few paragraphs while I describe the entire Blarney Castle scene.

The castle itself is interesting. As you walk through the rooms, you learn what each was used for and how we know that, and why that would have been. I'll give an example. In several places, you see multiple rooms, one atop the other. You see the floors were not stone at every level. If they had been, columns would have been required to hold the weight. So instead, stones protrude from the walls and they held up a wooden floor between levels. Sadly, those wooden floors have not survived the ravages of time, but you can see where they must have been.

In one such double high room, we were standing in the "Young Ladies Room." Don't be scandalized. The young ladies weren't there, and hadn't been in many decades. Above the Young Ladies Room was the Priest's Room. And how did they know this? Well, there were fewer windows. And there was an alcove carved into one of the walls, most likely for keeping religious items and figurines.

It must have cramped the young ladies' style to have the priest living upstairs. No wild late night parties. Well, unless you invited the priest.

In addition to the castle itself, there is a poison garden where all of the plants there are in some way harmful to humans. Some of them are what you would think of as poison: eat it and you die. Others were skin irritants like poison ivy. Others were only dangerous to people when people used the plant for something weird, like tobacco. In it's natural form, it doesn't much affect us. But dry it out and smoke it, and it can kill you!

There was a cave called Badger's Cave just below the castle. When Oliver Cromwell's armies came to raid the castle and finally took it, inside they only found two servants. Apparently the Irish forces had escaped through the cave. Though today the cave only goes back a couple hundred feet, legend says it once had three exits: one to the nearby lake, one to Cork, and one more further off near the coast.

We also saw the Rock Close. Here there are many rock formations that were once sacred to Druids. And there is the Witches Rock and Witches Kitchen that deal with the Blarney Witch. Signs assured us that she only comes out at night and since the area closes at dusk, we were safe.
Syarra and I trying to outsneer the witch in the stone
So back to our Goldilocks Zone for things we can do. If someone told you before you died you needed to buy orange juice at the grocery store, you'd laugh. I mean that is just so mundane, so common, that you've done it dozens of times without thinking twice about it. That's just too easy and too everyday to be an activity worth note.
You're thinking, why a picture of a house?
On the other end of the spectrum, if someone told you that you needed to stand in front of the house in Cork, Ireland where George Boole once lived, you'd say, "What?" First, you might be unaware that George Boole was a great mathematician who created Boolean Algebra, the very set of logical rules by which computer chips operate. And even if you did know that, finding a house he lived in at one point in his life would seem too esoteric or too trivial to put on your bucket list. I mean, unless you are a huge fan of Boolean Algebra or Boolean variables in computer science. (Oh no, you say, I don't like Boolean variables "one bit.") There's a joke in there for the Booligans. (That's what I named George Boole fans.)
Plaque on the house
So for an activity or event to make a more universal bucket list it has to be in the Goldilocks Zone. Not so uncommon as to have never been heard of, but not so common as to make the bucket lister yawn just thinking about it. This one's too dull. This one's too weird. But that one is just right.

And so kissing the Blarney Stone fits. It's legendary enough that many people have heard of it. It has a fun history and tales of its mystical properties. But it isn't so easy to get to that everyone has kissed it. In fact, even when you're there, it's not as easy as you might think.

You climb to the parapet. Here, you lay on your back leaning into the gap left for water drainage. And with your head upside-down, you kiss the base stone there on the castle wall. These days there are two iron bars to hold and a man keeping you from falling. In days of yore, it was probably a bit more dangerous.
Alrica kissing the Blarney Stone
But it didn't scare me. It was fine, laying on your back, hanging your head, and kissing a rock. But as a mattress, that parapet floor would certainly not have been just right.

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