In the final lines of our national anthem, Americans sing, “O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave”. Those labels are a little dicey today. Are we really free? Are we really brave? It’s a debate best left to more intellectual bloggers. I’m simply looking for less controversial words to describe the United States. Take Ireland, for example. The little republic is nicknamed “The Emerald Isle”. Of this, there can be no doubt. Before your flight even touches down, the window seat view is nothing but endless rolling green hills. And not just any green.
See what I did there? Inside of a single paragraph I distanced myself from heavy topics like freedom and bravery, and now I’m focused on the color green. Bravo, Dave! Now then, let’s continue.
Emeralds have always been my favorite of the precious gems. In the jewelry shop it’s hard to ignore diamonds (because they’re everywhere), yet somewhere in the glass cases you’ll find the more colorful stones. Blood-red rubies. Royal blue sapphires. Modest little garnets (my birthstone). And green, green emeralds. I’m drawn to emeralds because green is my favorite color. On that note, do you realize your favorite color never changes? Nobody says, “Well, I used to like purple but now my favorite color is orange”. You can move to another country, switch up your career, or overhaul your wardrobe, but your favorite color is a constant.
I digress (sorry). I have emeralds on the brain for good reason. My wife & I just celebrated thirty-five years of marriage (thank you very much), and she hinted emeralds might be a nice gift. So I paid a visit to my jeweler. I told her I was looking for something understated, maybe earrings and a necklace. She showed me a pretty set, where I thought my only decision was the shape of the stones (Round? Square? Pear?). But then she threw me a curve when she said, “Would you prefer natural or lab-created?” Huh? Why would I buy my wife anything other than the real thing?
Here’s the rub of the green. Lab-created gems are the real thing. They’re “chemically, physically, and optically identical to their natural counterparts.” So why choose one over the other? Cost. Lab-created gems can be significantly less expensive, especially as the number of carats grows. In other words, easy choice, right? Wrong. The lab-created gems – at least in my jewelry shop – were small enough to be the same price as the naturals. Instead, my decision came down to color.
Was I tempted by the blue-green clarity of the lab-created? Absolutely. Did I choose them? Absolutely not. I kept coming back to the emeralds in my brain. Call it natural green, kelly green, or Irish green, but I prefer the green on the left. And I think my wife did too.
I’d like to share some trivia on today’s topic but – warning – it’s a little pedestrian. Emeralds are one of the twelve birthstones (conveniently, the month of May). Emeralds come from the mineral Beryl (as do aquamarines). Their rarity makes them “precious”, alongside diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. They’re delicate, susceptible to chipping. Finally, emeralds are considered, among other things, a symbol of rebirth.
A section of the Florida Panhandle is called the Emerald Coast for the area’s clear, green water. The Wizard of Oz lived in the Emerald City for reasons only Oz fanatics can explain. And little Ireland, deservedly, earns its nickname for those rolling green hills, as well as Irish jewelry, made primarily from green gems (if not all emeralds).
I saved one more fact for last, mostly to make points with my wife. After I bought her the earrings and necklace, I said to my jeweler, “By the way, it’s silver for the 25th anniversary and gold for the 50th, but what about the 35th?” She replied, “Emerald” (even though several Google searches suggest jade). Whoa. I didn’t plan on that coincidence but I’ll certainly take the credit. After all, my wife is one-quarter Irish. My daughter’s name is Kelly. And my favorite color is green. How could it be anything but emeralds?
Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.
Lego Grand Piano – Update #17
(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)
Today’s build demanded more of an overhead view so you can see the difference between last week and this week. Bag #17 – of 21 bags of pieces – earned me the row of seventeen black caps you see in the second photo (on top of the piano wires), as well as the wide stand for sheet music, just behind the keyboard cover.
The piano is a remarkable instrument. When you press down on a key, you’re actually pushing a “hammer” up against the underside of a piano wire, creating a musical sound (or “note”). When you release the key, a black “damper” (one of the seventeen I just built) drops down on the top of the wire, silencing the sound. Add in the functions of the three pedals at the base and you should consider the piano a musical mechanical marvel.
Running Build Time: 12.5 hours. Musical accompaniment: Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee. Leftover pieces: 2
Conductor’s Note: The Bumblebee is a brief orchestral interlude of an opera, composed well over a hundred years ago. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s furious little piece, when played on the violin, really does sound like a buzzing bee. It’s only 84 seconds in length, but you find yourself catching your breath after you’ve heard it. It’s even more remarkable when played on the piano, the fingers almost a blur. Have a listen to the audio file here. I’m sure you’ll recognize the tune from some of today’s movies and cartoons.