Thursday, November 17, 2011

137. RAKES

Lawn-clearing engineering

* Dropping temperatures and windy days have left our front and backyards downright carpeted in leaves. Since we live next to a forest, there are plenty of leaves that fall on our lot. In response, my housemates and I have had several "two-rake" days recently.
* Raking leaves, I think, is great exercise.
* For me, raking is also very mathematical. If there are different spots in a yard to which leaves are raked, which leaves should be raked to which spots? In what order should they be raked? If there is a choice, how many such spots should there be such that overall raking is minimized?
* I have fond memories of going over to my grandmother's house as a college student to help her rake her leaves. Afterwards, she served my friends and me a big pot of home-made soup.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Colored branches on display beneath angled ray

* Fall foliage is hitting its peak in Maryland at just the right time. With last weekend's clock reset, the sun now rises right around when I am getting up for and heading to work. Out my bedroom window and along the road, I can see the bright orange and yellow leaves illuminated by the sunshine.

* The illuminated foliage may be more splendid beneath the morning sunlight than at any other day. The angle at which the sun strikes the earth has an interesting effect on the sunlight's effect.

* As you may recall, I like sunrises at other times of year as well.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Cold floor, no-more!

* This week, the temperatures have dipped into the thirties in Maryland, and at times the bare bathroom floor hasn't felt much warmer. But the bathroom rugs have come to the rescue!
* Our upstairs bathroom has the snazzy arrangement of having two rugs - one besides the tub and another by the sink. This way, my feet can stay warm when I get out of the shower and when I brush my teeth.
* Picking a bathroom rug can make a big difference for the bathroom aesthetics. Our bathroom has unexceptional burgundy rugs. What's the best way to pick the best color rug?

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Hand-picked from the trees, spurring many recipes

* Of course, not all apples are hand-picked, but the ones currently sitting in the bottom drawer of our back refrigerator were. I picked them myself from a farm in northern Montgomery County earlier this month.
* To get the best rate, it was required to pick at least 20 lbs. With amazing and fairly coincidental precision, my total was 20.01 lbs. The only variety available for picking that evening was braeburn. So I drove home with 20.01 lbs of braeburn apples.
* What can be done with 20 lbs of apples? Originally, I thought that my housemates would help me to eat them. There are five of us, so if we each had an apple a day, they would be gone in less than two weeks. However, even freshly-picked as they were, the taste and consistency was mediocre at best. These apples would need to be cooked.
* Weeks later, about a dozen apples still remain, but I have been able to make a few dishes. I've made home-made applesauce twice. I made a stew with pork, cabbage, onions, and apples. And I gave a dozen apples to a friend. What recipe should be next?

Thursday, October 20, 2011


The sound of a voice can be cause to rejoice

* Real-time conversations are nice, in-person conversations might be even better, and written correspondence conveys specific thoughtfulness. But I think that recorded phone messages can be pretty neat too.
* Recorded phone messages, unlike real-time conversations, can be replayed many times. Moreover, my voice mailbox automatically replays my saved messages every forty days to see if I want to keep them. As a result, I'm often greeted anew with a saved message out of the blue.
* For instance, when my family or a friend calls to sing "Happy Birthday" to me in August, I usually save the message. Then, every 40 days, I hear their cheerful birthday wishes.
* In extreme cases, I may even listen to all of my saved messages in sequence, just to hear a whole set of friendly voices. For a selected few folks, when I hear their voice, even if it is recorded, I just can't help smiling.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Keeps going down a hill from being too much of a thrill

* Some hilly roads have runaway ramps - sharp upward inclines off the side of the road with barriers at the end - ostensibly for trucks with malfunctioning brakes. I would not want to have to use one of these!
* When I travel from Maryland back to Pennsylvania, the turnpike has some fairly significant hills. Without brakes, how fast I would be going by the time that I reached the bottom! (This sounds like a high school physics problem.) Or, how quickly I would crash when I tried to make a downhill turn!
* At the same time, sometimes I like to refrain from braking and instead use gravity to my advantage. E.g., on Route 1, there is a gradual hill about a half-mile long in University Park on my usual route coming home from work. I try to be going fairly slowly when I reach the top of the hill. Then, I just coast down the hill, usually reach about 45 MPH, but then slow down comfortably before the red light at East-West Highway.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Physical feeds of interesting reads

* As part of my membership to the professional society IEEE, I receive their monthly magazine, "IEEE Spectrum." The latest issue includes articles on the research submarines and the importance of random number for digital security.
* My housemate Dan is a big fan of magazines. Among all of his subscriptions, I think that his favorite is the "New Yorker."
* Many magazines now seem to be more available on-line than they are in print. But I think that there is something satisfying about physically holding what you're reading.
* Are there certain types of articles that would only appear in a magazine, e.g., not in a newspaper or book?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

130. RUGS

Floor equipping preventing slipping

* Our house has very little carpet. But we do have rugs atop many of the hardwood floors.
* Finding the rug with the right pattern can add zip to a room.
* Some rugs do make it easier to slip. But particularly in the bathroom, a rug can be an important guard against slips.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Legumes crushed for eating unrushed

* If you have never before had nut roll, you should give it a try!
* In our family, it is traditional to make nut roll for Easter. Accordingly, this past weekend, my sister Missy made a few rolls. They were impressively delicious for her first batch ever!
* Excitingly, I was given part of a roll to take back to Maryland. All week at work, I have enjoyed a few slices after breakfast.
* Nut roll, with its festive connotation, is certainly a food to savor.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Disclosing information with appropriate hesitation

* Sometimes it is exactly the details which are mentioned between parentheses that give a narrative its biggest punch.
* For instance, for simple miracle #123, I wrote that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were "an absolute staple." Had this been all I wrote, a reader might have been left to wonder, "What does he mean by 'staple'? Do he ever actually eat the sandwiches? Or is he just talking?" But then, I added, "(I had two today for lunch)." My assertions were substantiated! The parenthetical details made the difference!
* Alas, I did some research on other posts, and there is only one other post out of the last ten within which I have used parentheses. (The other was #125.) Perhaps I should increase my parenthesization!
* I am also attentive to how parentheses are used in Gmail email accounts. In the status bar at the top of the screen, it says "Gmail - Inbox" and this is it if you have no new messages. But, if you do have new messages, the bar says something like "Gmail - Inbox(1)". It is as though I am being told, "Yes, this is your inbox and you have a new message." Hooray! (Albeit, these parentheses are less relevant since I have given up checking my Gmail account during the day for Lent.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


A valuable break from the weekday shake

* I am particularly looking forward to this weekend, during which I'll be traveling home to visit my family in Pennsylvania, then to visit other relatives in Ohio.
* Praise the Lord that we live in a country where our weekends include Sunday. This is not the case in every country.
* How important it is to work hard during the week to be able to better enjoy a weekend!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Allowing drivers to see without dodging debris

* I thought of this simple miracle a few days ago when a bird skimmed off of my windshield. The poor thing didn't leave a splotch and didn't seem to crash, so I don't think that its collision could have been too direct. However, I was much happier to have the bird skim off of my windshield than to skim off of my head.
* Perhaps the importance of a windshield is shown by their presence in convertibles. It is as though it is more important to have a windshield than a roof!
* Of course, once your car starts moving, windshield wipers and windshield wiper fluid may as much of simple miracles as a windshield itself.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Making it harder for preying tartar

* About a month ago, my dentist commented, "You're lucky. You have good saliva." He followed with an explanation of how saliva pH affects tartar development.
* Actually, it might be more accurate to say that "bad saliva" makes it easier for tartar. From what I've found, I don't think that any saliva actually impedes tartar. Rather, it's that some saliva is more conducive to tartar.
* Consider also the role that elbows play in preventing tartar. (Are you confused?)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Ask them for a book to save you a look

* Thanks to my friend Aaron for suggesting this simple miracle. As a doctoral history student, he often utilizes a librarian's research expertise.
* This simple miracle is also inspired by my sister Maria who is a librarian for a small Catholic college in Tennessee. She has given our whole family a pride for librarians.
* At work, we also have great librarians. I often identify books or journal articles that I would like from other libraries and they swiftly obtain it for me.
* When I was growing up, my family lived within walking distance of the library and we visited it often. In fact, when the librarian came to my fourth-grade class, she pointed to me and said, "Oh yes, I know Phil, his family comes three times a week." How embarrassed I was!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

123. PB&J

Palatably blended and jovial

* Particularly now that this year's Lenten season has begun, peanut butter and jelly is an absolute staple. (I had two today for lunch.)
* This site says that the first peanut butter was made in 1880. During World War II, soldiers mixed it with jelly to make it taste better. When they returned home, the new sandwich's popularity soared.
* When I was in middle school, I tried many odd varieties of peanut butter and jelly, such as microwaving or toasting a finished sandwich. Few if any of these experiments endured.
* This simple miracle first appeared on the campus of CWRU in 2004.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Having less of a mane is quick to maintain

* This simple miracle is dedicated to my dad, who has cut my hair hundreds of time, always tidy and trim.
* In recent years, I have started to cut my own hair. But haircut cleanup is much easier on our back deck. But lately it's been too cold for me to dare to do this. So I'd just resorted to scissors trims for a few months. But when I visited my family this weekend, I met fierce protests. "Helmet!" my brother declared, "You have so much hair that it looks like you're wearing a helmet!" So my dad agreed to cut my hair once again.
* Often, my dad's haircuts gain great compliments. My housemate Tobias commented yesterday, "I think that your short haircut makes you look smarter." It also makes me feel smarter.
* Regardless of how a short hairdo improves my appearance or intelligence, having one probably saves me at least two minutes every morning from not having to check the mirror and see if any tufts are hopelessly out of place.
* Would short haircuts be a simple miracle for all? Perhaps some women would instead assert, "It's worth the while to go for style."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Making veggies or meat a well-moistened treat

* I actually don't use olive oil that much. But maybe I should. When my housemate Dan sautees the peppers and onions for our Sunday scrambled eggs in olive oil before he adds the eggs, the taste is definitely better.
* What is it about olives that leads them to produce oil? In contrast, you never hear about "tomato oil" or "broccoli oil" or "strawberry oil."
* Posting this simple miracle makes me think about going to a fancy Italian restaurant, where they serve that fancy bread that you can dip into that fancy oil.
* Thanks to Claire for suggesting the idea for this simple miracle.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Less of a squeeze puts drivers at ease

* Around Washington DC, it is very important to be able to parallel park. On a trip downtown, the only spaces that are available might be parallel. So you'd better be able to make the right manuevers under pressure!
* Even in front of my own house in suburban Maryland, sometimes I have to narrowly parallel park, if others have parked too close together.
* With pull-straight-in spaces, it is also nice to have a lot of room. At work, I especially appreciate parking spaces that don't require carefully opening my car door to avoid hitting an adjacent car.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


A body heat conserving feat

* In the summer, a single flannel sheet may be sufficient as bed covers for me. But in the winter, the heavy blanket sewn for me by my old neighbor, Mrs. Bertram, is absolutely essential.
* In July 2008, I made a pilgrimage to Australia to join a half-million other young adults for World Youth Day. In July, it is winter in Australia. Nevertheless, our group was housed initially in a large unheated pavilion. Boy, was it cold! How thankful we were to the local Australians who donated blankets for pilgrims. I think that I used four or five at a time.
* I'm especially thinking of the men and women who live on the streets. In the winter, I hope that they have many blankets too.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

118. BOWLS

Allowing mixing without constricting

* Almost every morning at work, I eat a bowl of cereal mixed with yogurt. But this morning I forgot to bring a bowl. Instead, I had to eat my cereal and yogurt inside of a plastic cup, which made it difficult to mix the yogurt at the bottom with the cereal in the rest of it.
* Is a bowl more like a cup or a plate? Ordinarily, I eat ice cream in a bowl. I might also eat ice cream on a plate. Ordinarily, I eat soup in a bowl. I would never eat soup on a plate.
* This weekend, two football teams will mix it up in the Super Bowl. Go Steelers!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Sit up or lean back, without changing your track

* Because of the weather, this afternoon I am working from home. Rather than in my office, how happy I am to be sitting in the recliner chair in my living room!
* This particular chair belongs to my old housemate Isaiah. He moved to Iowa, but the chair didn't fit in his car. We were very grateful that he chose to leave it with us.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Like a water fountain on the go

* Albeit, water bottles need to be filled, while water fountains do not. However, a water bottle, unlike a water fountain, can fit in your back pocket. Or if you find it more comfortable, a water bottle can fit in your backpack pocket.
* I recently received a new water bottle as a present. It has a latch that keeps the bottle from leaking. This is important.
* I once composed a poem which began "Balancing a water bottle on my head ..." and included corresponding acrobatics. I still perform it occasionally, on special request.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

115. BIRDS

Needing only miniscule might for incredible flight

* I got the idea for this simple miracle from this New York Times article, describing ongoing research to study how birds fly.
* Even very tiny birds can generate the strength to fly very far. For instance, the NYT article mentions how "the calliope hummingbird weighs only as much as two paper clips, yet it migrates annually between Canada and Mexico."
* This simple miracle makes me think of the doves released by Noah after the flood. It is good that they were able to keep flying in search of dry land.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Between topsoil and brownies, making a difference

* I have heard that a food's smell has a big impact on how we perceive its taste. But even if I could still smell a food, I still don't know if I would want to eat a food without my taste buds. Would smelling the food even have any significance without taste buds?
* It seems that there are very few criticisms of food as sharp as "It has no taste!"
* Last week, I made brownies twice - once for a new year's day celebration and the next day for dinner at a friend's house.
* Hopefully, the brownies that I made truly did have a good taste, and when my friends said that they had a good taste, they weren't just saying it to be polite. How much effect does how we think something will taste have on how it actually tastes to us?

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