I marvel at the complexity of it all
My unusual passion could be considered very odd indeed – railway tracks. Not trains, or locomotives, but the very tracks upon which they run. It has totally fascinated me since childhood, and my excitement on seeing a track, anywhere, remains undimmed, well into old-age, and it always will.
I still find it astonishing that a train can move from one set of tracks onto another with their flanged wheels, by virtue of points, (or as my American pal would say, “switches”), invented at the dawn of the railway phenomenon almost 200 years ago. Clever stuff.
These points can get very complicated indeed, raising the level of excitement. You can get
diamond crossings, where tracks cross over each other, and also “double slips”, where trains can not only completely cross an adjacent track, they can move directly onto the adjacent track as well – they are (according to me) so very cool.
So while my train is approaching the end of the line, and all the passengers are complaining that it is late yet again, there’s me, at the window staring at the tracks outside, just marvelling at the sheer complexity of it all.
And it’s not just on commercial lines either – if I am in a recreational park somewhere, and there’s a miniature railway running through the grounds, you’ll find me following that track to wherever it may go. Even a model railway has the same effect – I will ignore the locomotives and the rolling stock, even the brilliant model buildings, and concentrate instead on the tracks, the points, the diamond crossings and the track layout.
I’m also passionate about railway archaeology – walking along miles of long-abandoned track beds, looking for any signs that show a railway once dominated the landscape. For my elder brother’s 60th birthday, I bought him a book about the disused railways of London. We went out one morning trying to find signs of one of them. We eventually found an old road that went over a bridge. We looked over the edge of the bridge, only to discover a railway track down below, almost hidden by 30 years-worth of overgrown foliage. This is the actual image. Big brother was impressed – I was ecstatic!
In my bathroom, for my personal reading, I have five volumes that show every piece of railway track layout for the whole of the U.K. I spend an awful lot of time studying these books. I am still in awe at the sheer genius of track design at some stations, allowing several trains, in both directions, to glide seamlessly into and out of the station without colliding with each other, or impeding each other’s progress.
So I’ll leave you with a diagram of Glasgow Central station in Scotland. I wonder whether it will have the same effect on you as it has on me……..
My very odd passion
I really don’t have any odd, weird or funny hobbies or passions but I think maybe just one. That is, collecting beer coasters or beer mats, depending which side of the pond you are.
Being a beer lover, I don’t find this stuff too strange to me. Collecting those little items is like travelling all over the world, from Australia’s Foster’s to the King of Beers to English ales to Japan’s Hokkaido with its famous Sapporo.
It is also fun to see how a one world brand changes its designs over time or produces some special promo designs dedicated to major events such as the World Cup.
But the cool thing about it is that these coasters might be very educational, not just funny or purely design-oriented.
Let’s just check out three cases.
Case # 1: the funny one.
This nomination goes to Foster’s with its series of ‘Life rules – Foster’s rules’ campaign. Here’s an example of that 2-stage promo campaign:
It says Foster’s rules:
Case # 2: the educational one.
This Jack the Ripper ale’s coaster reflects the vibe of Victorian London.
Case # 3: the mythological one.
Japan’s soft drink/beer giant Kirin is named after a mythical animal that came from Chinese mythology in ancient times and later was incorporated into Japanese pantheon.
The coaster, actually Kirin’s logo, shows how it might look like.
You can see that this stuff could be very entertaining, and to me is worth being a good hobby, though in recent years I haven’t spent much time collecting the mats.
Some people say the Earth is flat… Ok, that’s just messed up. Every Space Agency on the planet is involved in a giant conspiracy to keep you from knowing the truth. Nobody cares that much what you think…. Sorry.
Unless, of course, you know how to do that Vulcan hand greeting thingy where you split your middle fingers; then NASA is deeply committed to your happiness. Yes, deeply committed.
We all have our little quirks: things we think about that others may find odd. Maybe you follow Arsenal Football Club but haven’t a clue what the word football means: Soccer perhaps? Maybe you collect little paper beer coasters and call them mats, who knows?
However, if you love all things space, should you read science fiction, follow NASA’s latest adventures, and quote Captain Picard, I salute your intelligence in the face of people who lick beer mats in search of that fallen drop. You may count me among your brothers.
In the spirit of Brotherly Love, I submit that looking at a Star Trek ship and knowing what all those little do-dads do is perfectly rational. To quote Abraham Lincoln: “Do or dads not; there is no try.”
The thing about great sci-fi, regardless of the format, is that it can often be called science speculation; looking into the future and trying to make perditions about what may happen, then working out how something like that may work. This often includes some serious physics.
Star Trek does better than average in this arena. Consider the iPad – JeanLuc Picard had one many years before Steve Jobs. NASA has a future focused lab called Eagle Works. They are working on a ring style warp engine that looks just like the Vulcan warp drive. There is bunch more but I’ll not bore you.
It turns out that there is a really fine line between truly great science fiction TV and some idiot wearing a rubber glove on his head. Your Mother must be so proud.
So my odd passion is looking at a Star Trek ship and knowing its class, its history, and its do-dads. I love Star Trek because it is easily the most cerebral of all Science Fiction TV. Excuse me now, I’m off to lick the beer off the back of a coaster.