Sunday, January 06, 2013

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King

I'm reading William Joyce's Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King. One of its many charms is that, in the old-fashioned way, the chapters have individual titles. Some of my favorites:

Chapter Seven, Is Not Really a Chapter at All -- Just a Piece of the Greater Puzzle
Chapter Eight, Where the Impossible Occurs with Suprising Regularity
Chapter Eleven, In Which Wisdom Is Proven to Be a Tricky Customer Indeed
There is also a very minor character (who comes to a bad end) named Gregor of the Mighty Stink. Reading that, I had the same reaction as, in the story, a moonbeam has when it encounters Gregor in person:


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Daniel Inouye, September 7, 1924 – December 17, 2012

So it's only been a year and a day since I last posted here? I was sure it had been longer than that. What brought me out from under my rock?

Senator Daniel Inouye died yesterday. He was, in a way, a hero of mine. This goes back to the Watergate investigation, which was the event that put Inouye in the spotlight for the first time. He was being interviewed on television -- 60 Minutes, maybe? -- and he told a story about losing his arm in battle in Italy during World War II. He was quite a war hero -- a Medal of Honor recipient -- but you can read about his exploits elsewhere; they're well documented. It was that story he told on television those years ago, when I was a teenager, that has stuck with me:

He was in the hospital, in bed, in 1945, just after having had his right arm amputated. A nurse was passing by, and he asked her for a cigarette. She took out a new, unopened pack of cigarettes and tossed them on his bed, and then left. He was disgusted that she didn't even open the pack for him -- how was he supposed to open it, with only one hand? But he managed to get it open and get a cigarette out -- I think he used his teeth.

Then the nurse walked back by, and he asked her for a light. She took out a pack of matches and tossed them on the bed. As she walked away, his disgust overflowed, and he called, "Hey! How am I supposed to light a match? I only have one arm, you know."

The nurse turned around and said, "Soldier, you're only going to have one arm for the rest of your life, so you better start figuring things out for yourself."

She left, and Inouye thought about what she said. Then he set himself to figuring out how to light a match with one hand.

"And I did," he told the interviewer -- we'll say it was 60 Minutes. "Do you want to see?"

Of course the interviewer did. Inouye got out a pack of matches. "I quit smoking a long time ago," he said, "but I carry matches with me just to show people." He used his thumb to flip open the cover and then bend one of the matches down so the matchhead was against the sandpaper. He pinned it there with his thumb, and then flicked his thumb sharply to the side, rubbing the matchhead against the sandpaper and lighting it.

In that moment, he became a hero to me.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Have I been living under a rock?

The combination of MongoDB and jQuery is the coolest thing I've worked with in a long, long time.


Thursday, July 21, 2011


...were the numbers I saw when I looked at my clock this morning, as the twin sonic booms reached my ears and rattled my sliding glass doors...

...for the last time. Ever.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Unusual question

Jana Remy, on her blog, posed this question:
what is the plural form of 'apocalypse'? which I would answer:
Why would you ever need to know?
I mean, how many of them can we have?

Labels: ,

Saturday, January 01, 2011


...because that's what we do at the end of a year, isn't it? Retrospect? Because we in "the West" have arbitrarily chosen this point in the Earth's orbit to look back on what has happened since Earth was last at this point in its orbit.

For me, there were two events in this past orbit that easily stand out above all others: The first was the death of Barkley. The second was the death of Andrea.

I never knew, until this past year, how much loneliness could ache.

Yesterday, on the final day of the past year, we were out in my car and we were behind a car that had a bumper sticker that said "Dog Only Nose." In case you're not a dog person, this is a common conceit among dog people, to play on the fact that "dog" is "god" spelled backwards, as in, for example, "dogspeed."

When I saw "Dog Only Nose," I thought it was pretty clever. But as the day wore on, and I couldn't get thoughts of Barkley and Andrea out of my head, I realized that it was in fact profound.

Happy New Orbit, everyone.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Labels: ,

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas, Finale

Rubber duck Nativity:

Rubber Duck Nativity


Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, Part III

My Christmas tree at work this year (those are Swarovski ornaments):

My work Christmas tree


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Keeping the "Christian" in Christmas

We were in a restaurant, and at a nearby table the waiter was wrapping up serving a party. Overheard:
Waiter: Happy Holidays!

Patron: Where I come from, we say "Merry Christmas."

Waiter: We're supposed to say "Happy Holidays," so we include people who don't celebrate Christmas.

Patron: First we were entertained by your stupidity, and now we're being entertained by your bulls**t.
Except this obviously pious Christian didn't censor himself with asterisks.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas, Part II

Judi's Christmas tree!

Judi's Christmas Tree


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Merry Christmas!

This was produced by a company in England, Alphabet Photography, as a Christmas gift for their customers, and was originally sent to about 5,000 people. Since it has now, already, had tens of millions of views, you've probably already seen it, but in case you haven't, grab a tissue, and Merry Christmas:

I think the expression on the face of the guy at 3:24, by itself, made the whole thing worthwhile.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 17, 2010

Recently overheard....

A young man speaking:
My grandma is kinda mostly sane. Sometimes.

The color commentator on a broadcast team covering a college football game:
The kid's got a good imagination. When he graduates, he wants to be a fictional writer.

I guess if you go around telling people you're a writer, but you don't write a word, then that would make you a "fictional writer." No?

Finally, a woman speaking with a young man who appears to be in a relationship with her son:
Woman: Does your mother smoke?
Young Man: No, she never has.
W: Does she drink?
YM: No, she never drank. But once when I was little I ate some of her brownies and... they weren't right.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Reality Deficits

A couple of months ago, on Morning Edition, there was a professor who specialized in Pakistani history talking about why so many Pakistanis have such crazy ideas about the United States (for example, that the U.S. funds the Taliban). She said it was due to a "reality deficit."

Reality deficit! The term struck me immediately. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Now, I don't want to imply that every boneheaded belief is due to ignorance. For example, I suspect that most Young Earthers are well aware of the preponderance of evidence regarding the true age of the Earth. They aren't boneheaded because of a deficit of reality. They're just boneheaded because they choose to be.

On the other hand, I think there's a constant stream of evidence that the boneheaded ideas of many so-called Tea Party members and many religious conservatives can be chalked up to reality deficits. Some good examples are the many so-called Tea Partiers that I've heard claiming that Obama should be impeached for violating the Constitution, or that the Constitution states that Christianity is the official religion of the U.S., but who, when questioned, admit that they have never actually read the Constitution. This ignorance creates a knowledge vacuum -- aka a reality deficit -- that can be filled in or made up by any talking head or radio jockey saying pretty much whatever he wants. You see, the real value of the idea of reality deficits, as expressed by that Pakistani professor, isn't just that people are ignorant. No, the real insight goes a step further: It's how this missing reality leaves a gap into which obviously wrong ideas can be easily poured.

So much attention these days is being directed at budget deficits. In my humble opinion, those aren't the deficits that should really be scaring us.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, December 03, 2010

Toys For Tots

Last weekend, we made our annual Toys For Tots drop off at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on the beach:

Toy For Tots Drop Box

Judi's mother joined us this year for the first time. The box was empty when we started, and Judi packed it... well, the way Judi packs things.

Happy Christmas Season!

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Day Treat: A Pink Butterfly Cake!

A coworker baked this gorgeous cake, which I photographed using my phone just before she sliced into it:

Pink butterfly cake

It was more beautiful than the picture conveys. The flowers and butterflies were edible -- the tips of the butterflies' antennae where even dipped in edible glitter! The lady who made it is a test engineer; she told me this is only the second cake she's ever baked. She made the cake from scratch (no mix), and made the butterflies and flowers herself.

It was delicious.

Labels: ,


From time to time I'm in a store and see a sign that says "Unattended children will be sold as slaves." Besides being conventional and banal, I imagine there are some times when this sign might actually encourage parents to leave their children unattended.

Last weekend I was in a shop in Cocoa Village and saw this sign, which made me smile:

Unattended Children will be given a double espresso and a free puppy!

And there was nary an unattended child in sight.


Friday, November 12, 2010

This is the Way We Cook!

Asina Nos ta Cushina

compiled by Jewell Fenzi


One of the greatest pleasures of traveling is enjoying the local cuisines. Cooking seems like such a straightforward human activity, yet each culture and even sub-culture has found food to prepare and a way to prepare and even eat it which is completely original and unique and just as amazing and enjoyable as every other culture's and even sub-culture's cuisine.

Isn't that amazing?

I mean the multiplicity of wonderful cuisines, not the really long sentence.

So isn't that at least part of why you travel? I mean, there are some people who go to Italy and eat at McDonalds, but don't you eat Italian? And there are some people who go to France and eat at Taco Bell, but don't you wallow in French? And there are some who go to Japan and camp out every mealtime at Kentucky Fried Chicken, but don't you seek out authentic Japanese?

I know you do.

So why is it, I ask you, that people regularly travel to the islands of the Caribbean, and proceed to dine in restaurants that feature... Italian, French, and Japanese cuisines? (Not to mention McDonalds, Taco Bell, and Kentucky Fried Chicken.) But they do. In droves. And it's not to say that the Italian, French, and Japanese restaurants in the Caribbean aren't great -- they are (I guess). But, you know, you can eat great Italian, French, and Japanese cuisine back where you live, in the great United States of America. So why wouldn't you indulge in an exquisite cuisine that you probably can't get back home, that's right at your fingertips: Caribbean cuisine!

But it seems hardly anyone does. To be fair, part of the problem seems to be in the marketing: Local Caribbean cuisines are swept under the rugs, like an embarrassing mother-in-law who drinks and wears housecoats all day, while top-notch Italian, French, and Japanese chefs are drawn to the Caribbean by the big tourist bucks. But, to be even fairer than fair, the fact is that native Caribbean cuisine is the equal of any in the world. It just gets shorted in the islands.

Why make a Federal case about all this? Well, we just got back from a visit to the Dutch West Indies, where as usual we ate some awesome West Indian meals, but, more important, we brought back a cookbook! A cookbook with an exclamation mark in the title! This is the Way We Cook! Subtitled, in Papiamentu, Asina Nos ta Cushina, which means "this is the way we cook." It's packed with recipes from the native cooks of Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten, as well as illustrations sketched by Helen Dovale.

And here's how this can be great for you, too: This is the Way We Cook! is available here from Amazon! You'll notice that there are a bunch of used copies available for next-to-nothing, and new copes available for prices in the $18 range. You should have this wonderful cookbook addressing this wonderful cuisine, and if the less expensive used copies are all you can afford, then that's what you need to buy. But be aware that the writer makes no money on these sales, so if you can afford it, buying a higher-priced new copy will put a couple bucks in the writer's pocket, and I'm sure would be much appreciated.

To whet your appetite, here are a few recipes that I've reproduced from This is the Way We Cook! Try them, and become convinced that you need this cookbook:

Bon probecho!

Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.3

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 04, 2010

Coming home

Andie has been gone
four weeks; heartbreak still opens
a lonely home's door.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Watch for her...

Judi, as we were leaving a bar-b-que restaurant last week: "I'm leaving with wings on my fingers and ribs on my toes."


Saturday, September 25, 2010

It's Banned Books Week again

Banned Books Week began this weekend! Now this is my idea of a holiday.

Librarians, of course, stand at the forefront of those who battle censorship, and the American Library Association, one of the sponsors of Banned Books Week, keeps a top ten list, and you can see 2009's here. A great deal has been made this year of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, which is a perennial among banned books, and it's still up there and going strong. And other books that appear year after year are still secure in their places: And Tango Makes Three, Catcher in the Rye, and The Color Purple. The Harry Potter series has dropped off, replaced, perhaps, by the Twilight series. And I'm sure the ghost of Mark Twain is disappointed to find that Huckleberry Finn didn't make the cut this year.

All of which leads me to wonder why certain books make the coveted top ten, while others do not. For example, why not Their Eyes Were Watching God? All The Kings Men? (All The Kings Men, by the way, was required reading when I was a sophomore in high school. When the teacher assigned it, he remarked that it was "intense," but he "hoped" it wouldn't be "too much" for us.)

Anyway, back to which books make the list: Clearly, books are more frequently targets of censorship when they are more frequently read. Hence To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, and the replacement of Potter with Twilight. But some of the others... why them and not others? And Tango Makes Three? Lauren Myracle's Internet Girl series?

I've been analyzing the lists from recent years, and I'm pretty sure that if you can't write a blockbuster like Catcher in the Rye, but you still want to make the most-censored top ten, you should chose one of these two meal tickets: (1) Write about homosexuality, or (2) write realistically about young adults, especially girls, maturing (while Judy Blume never made the top ten list with a single book, five of her books made the list of top one-hundred challenged books of the decade of the 1990's, which makes her a rock star among the censored). If you want to really stack your deck, you should write realistically about about young lesbian girls maturing. If the young adult lesbians are realistically witches or vampires, I don't think that would hurt.

Barring that, writing a story that portrays Christianity in a bad light is as good fallback.

Happy Banned Books Week everyone! Read a book!

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Um, no

From time to time I teach classes where I work. In one particular class, all but one of the students arrived early. While we were waiting for the final student, the ones who were there were talking among themselves. The following snippet occurred between a young, blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman, who I will call Sue (not her real name), and a young man from India working for us on a Green Card, whom I will call Umang (not his real name). You should know that my employer bunches our holidays together so we get a week and a half or two weeks off over the Christmas and New Year holiday -- that's our "Christmas Break":

Sue: Are you going back to India during Christmas Break, Umang?

Umang: No.

Sue: You did last year, didn't you?

Umang: Yes, but it's too expensive for me to go every year. I go every other year.

Sue: Do you even celebrate Christmas?

Umang: No, I am a Hindi.

Sue: Does that mean you worship the Devil?

Me: ::head bang on podium::


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mid-life Crisis

Special note: The following post was actually written two years ago, almost to the day. I thought I had posted it then -- I don't know why I didn't --but I came across it today in a folder of unposted posts, which I guess are "unposts". Two years have past, and some things have changed, but I still think it's worth posting. Here it is:

One night recently Judi and I were sitting in her Florida room while it rained outside. "Look at the paver-stone walk," she said, referring to the walkway that runs in front of the butterfly gardens. "Does it remind you of somewhere we've been?"

The walkway was puddled, and raindrops were splashing down hard. The accent lights in the butterfly garden were shining in the wet.

Somewhere we've been? We've been to so many places. The someplaces began to flood into my mind:

San Diego, St. Lucia, Lisbon, Atlantic City, Cedar Rapids, Key West, Los Angeles, Curacao, Dallas, Seaside Heights, Chicago, Barbados, Pensacola...

...Palm Springs, Freeport, Barcelona, Binghamton, Bonaire, Miami Beach, Yosemite, St. Kitts and Nevis, Rome, Boston, Tortola, Madison, Daytona Beach...

...San Francisco, St. Maarten, Naples (Italy, not Florida), New York City, San Antonio, Puerto Rico, Santa Cruz, Cannes, St. Thomas, St. Paul, St. Petersburg (Florida, not Russia)...

...Aruba, Napa, St. Barths, Savannah, Provincetown, Las Vegas, St. John, York (Maine), Jacksonville, Nassau, Biloxi, Reno, Sanibel, Venice...

...and how many others? But I watched the lights in the raindrop-shattered puddles, and the memory she was talking about literally bubbled up in my mind. It was a memory from almost twenty years ago:

"New Orleans," I said, and Judi smiled brightly in the dark.

"We were in Jackson Square," I continued. "It began to rain, and we ducked under cover. The rain cleaned off the pavement, and the lights were reflected in the water on the pavement just like that."

The last few years, I've been going through a mid-life crisis. Nothing extraordinary, nothing worth blogging about, just the usual run-of-the-mill mid-life crisis that most men go through around my age. You know: Why haven't I accomplished more with my life? What do I have to show? I had expected so much more of myself, and now I will never achieve it: I'm on the downhill run towards death. Why did I squander my youth?

You know, that kind of ho-hum mid-life crisis.

But recently I've been coming to terms with it (as most men my age do). It started with the realization that if I were to be diagnosed with a fatal disease tomorrow, I would have to admit to myself that already, in my life, I have been to many extraordinary places. Already, in my life, I have seen many extraordinary things, eaten many extraordinary meals, experienced many extraordinary adventures (did I ever tell you about the time...?). Already, I have met many extraordinary people...

...not to mention having had the most extraordinary of them all by my side the entire time.

Already, I have made many extraordinary memories.

My journey to acceptance of mortality isn't complete, but in moments like that one, that night, watching the sharply plunking raindrops send out circles of rapidly expanding light and reliving the warm, hearty memories of that New Orleans night so many years ago, I realize what it is I have, and how much more satisfying that is than dwelling on what I have not.

I haven't lived the life I had thought I would lead. But I could have done worse. I could have done a lot worse.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Is it all good?

A while back (okay, five years ago -- how times flies) I posted about the magical effect of the phrase "bless his heart." Last week a coworker informed us that she nags her father, but, she added, "it's all good."

"It's all good." Such a breezy statement. Just as it seems you can say anything bad about anyone if you include "bless his heart", you can also confess to any crime and be forgiven as long as you wrap it up with, "it's all good." The Urban Dictionary has this entry for "It's all good":
Platitude that covers so many emotions and situations that it says little; its only real meaning is that the speaker is trying to rise above whatever problem exists, without expressing their underlying negative emotions.
Ouch. C'mon, Urban Dictionary, don't hold back.

Anyway, as with "bless his heart," let's see how far we can push this. Let's start with the original inspiration for this post:
I nag my Dad, but it's all good.
Okay, she seems to be saying, "it's not like it sounds." She might even be implying (or intending to imply) that her Dad doesn't mind being nagged.

Let's kick it up a notch:
I wrecked my Dad's new car, but it's all good.
Okay, we can buy this, too. Maybe Dad is simply grateful that his child wasn't hurt. And who knows? Maybe he was already regretting buying that particular model, and he's relieved that fate took it off his hands.
I got mad at Dad and threw a glass and cut him over the eye, but it's all good.
You know, this example begins to show the real power of "it's all good", because it works. "It's all good" is so obdurately positive that it convinces you that, somehow, something positive came out of this incident. It somehow ended well. The world is a better place for this assault and battery.

One final try:
I framed Dad for that armed bank heist that I pulled, and now he's doing twenty-five in the state pen, but it's all good.
Doesn't this leave you with a sunny, happy little feeling? It is all good. And, somehow, we are deflected from the question of, for whom?

Labels: ,

Monday, August 09, 2010

Happy Birthday, Judi!

Yesterday was Judi's Happy Birthday. She took the opportunity to visit the butterfly exhibit at our local zoo. It was her final opportunity, because, coincidentally, the limited-run butterfly exhibit ended on her birthday. The exhibit was nothing special -- Judi's own gardens and Butterfly House are more impressive, her gardens aren't on a limited run, and she's a much better guide than the largely uninformed volunteers at the zoo -- but afterwards she went into the bird house and fed the lorikeets.

"Feeding the lorikeets" means buying a tiny cup of some sort of nectar at a booth which is outside the bird house. You realize why the booth is outside the bird house as soon as you re-enter the bird house with the tiny cup of nectar in your hand. You are expecting to freely move to the center of the bird house and hold up your tiny cup of nectar, inviting the birds to sip. What really happens is the birds (who are not stupid) dive-bomb you the instant you come through the door from the nectar booth:

Judi feeding the lorikeets

But Judi surprised me and got into it:

Judi feeding the lorikeets

Rock on, Judi! Although I wish you many more Happy Birthdays to come, I hope you continue to refuse to grow up.

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A "Cool" Idea

I thought this was pretty clever:

Cool Juice Pitcher

It's a pitcher with a column in the middle that you can fill with ice, to keep the juice cool.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Haiku Tuesday

Feeling peace, stillness,
quiet heart, one should not have
to get out of bed

Labels: , ,

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I'm so Victoria Holt

I was standing in the back aisle of a supermarket, waiting for an employee to check on something. I was trying hard to overhear a young man -- a scruff of hair on his chin, wearing black jeans and a black t-shirt showing upper arm tattoos -- was monologing while two two women -- one apparently with him and one an employee, hopefully not on duty -- listened. This was the line that first caught my attention:
"I was so Dostoevsky, and she was so J. K. Rowling."
People really talk this way? To other people? In public? Really?

Unfortunately I couldn't hear everything, so I couldn't get the drift of the conversation... er, monologue. But I heard this:
"I so did not want to move in with my mom and dad. I would have done anything to get out of it. I would have sold an intestine."
Dude, I would suggest that you sell a kidney first. You need your intestine.

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I'm on Facebook. Really.

Disclaimer: Believe it or not, I composed this post before my brother's post, below, appeared. And he and I have never discussed Facebook (in fact, we haven't discussed anything at all recently). It's a total and complete coincidence that we both wrote posts about new networking technology at the same time. His post is great. Here's mine:

Recently I read a post on another blog that claimed that individual blogging is dead. According to that poster, the only two types of blogs that remain relevant in today's blogosphere are (1) the few super-blogs that have such huge followings that the bloggers support themselves financially (think Cake Wrecks, Go Fug Yourself, Bike Snob NYC, etc.), and (2) "group blogs" that can keep up a steady stream of posts that are both interesting and daily because they're the product of a pool of contributors. Individual and occasional bloggers like me are, in effect, a stagnant backwater that the Internet has passed by. At best. At worst, we are pathetic losers. According to this poster, what's happened is that individual blogging has been replaced by Facebook and Twitter.


My experience with Facebook began when two bloggers that I used to follow told me that they were giving up blogging so they could devote themselves to Facebook. I signed up on Facebook so I could continue to follow them. And since I was there, I also befriended a small number of other people.

So... is Facebook replacing blogging? To begin with, Facebook replacing blogging is like bricks replacing apples. Neither my two ex-bloggers nor anyone else I've seen on Facebook is publishing thoughtful paragraphs, or even multiple-sentence accounts of their lives and adventures, the way they used to do when they were blogging. They're just tossing out occasional one-sentence updates using the "News" feature, and maybe slapping up a picture or two. Facebook isn't blogging. Facebook is, well, a way for people to keep casually in touch with each other. Which is perfectly fine. But it's not blogging.

So this week I started poking around on Facebook to see how it could be used for real blogging, if one wanted to. And it seems that the "Notes" feature is what Facebook wants you to use for blogging. Although I haven't seen anyone who is.

If Facebook is truly the death of blogging, it's not because it's the equivalent of blogging. It's because bloggers got tired. Is that because not enough readers wanted to hear what they said? I dunno. This blog has a grand total of three readers. Is it worth my time to post my ::ruminations:: for three readers? Probably not. But, on the on the other hand, is it worth more to me than, say, letting Facebook followers know that I ate a Reuben for lunch today? I think so.

During my exploration of Facebook, I did notice that it allows you to mirror your external blog in your "Notes". So I signed up for that, which means this blog, including this very post, should also be in my Notes in my Facebook account. There's something deliciously self-referencing in all that. Not that I expect anyone to read it there, either.

One thing that's amazed me about Facebook is how thorough it's been at recommending people that I went to school with or used to know for befriending. But I haven't tried to get in touch with any of them, because I have this very-un-2010-like aversion to intruding in someone's life without an invitation. However, if you are on Facebook and would like to hook up with me -- because I am interested, believe it or not, in superficially socializing with you -- try this:

Gregory Smith


Friday, July 16, 2010

Now I Get It

Northern Bro:

The web is full of old fogey stories and here is mine.

I admit that I just don’t get Facebook or Youtube. Youtube is something that confuses the heck out of me. There are a few interesting things on it, and my Florida niece has steered me to some very funny clips that I enjoyed immensely. But when I go on myself I have never been able to navigate through the thing. Admittedly I haven’t spent a lot of time trying to figure it out, and there is a chance that with the investment of 15 minutes or so it’ll be clear as day. As it is, I point and click at random (since that is as good a method as any when you are hopelessly lost) and most often don’t end up with anything interesting. Not once have I come across something that is supposed to be ‘viral’ on Youtube, which makes me feel like an idiot.

Now you have to remember that during my formative years the big technological innovation in the area of communications was the touch button phone. No more waiting for the dial to rotate back to position after each number! Talk about convenience… And the big technological innovation in the area of electronic entertainment was color TV. My wife, who is a few years younger than I, lists VCRs as the technological innovation of her youth. Alas, I was already in college when those contraptions came out (and by the way, my first collect dorm room had ….. a rotary phone. I hear they come with internet access now).

Facebook I kind of understand, but not entirely. The entire phenomenon reminds me of the most excellent Thanksgiving eve contradance that Steve Zakon-Anderson hosts in Peterborough NH every year. When asked why he hosts this event on Thanksgiving eve he says (tongue in cheek) that it is for all the people who have come home for Thanksgiving and once they get home they start talking with the relatives and suddenly remember why they left. His dance gives them an excuse to get out of the house for a few hours. Facebook kind of reminds me of that. Through Facebook I have reconnected with many people whom I have drifted away from over the years. Through Facebook I am now reminded of why we drifted away from each other in the first place. I guess that serves a purpose.

Then this summer it all made sense. I was trying to sing the old Bing Crosby number ‘Swing from a Star’ for our 4 year old. And, lo and behold, I went to Youtube and found a clip of Bing himself singing it in ‘Going My Way’. What a treasure! Because of Youtube our daughter has watched not only Bing, but also Gene Kelly singin’in the rain, Donald O’Connor doing ‘Make ‘em Laugh’ and Fred Astaire in top hat and tails tapping and singing ‘Putting on the Ritz’. She enjoys them all and after many viewings has just about memorized ‘Make ‘em Laugh’. I couldn’t be prouder.

Now I get it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Haiku Tuesday

I desperately
want to build a bridge, but can
see no way forward.

Labels: ,

Monday, July 12, 2010

Can I call in a pizza?

A local retirement home has been running a radio ad in which they tout, among their many other amenities, "chef inspired menus."

I can't tell you how much this underwhelms me.

To begin with, it implies that the place doesn't have a chef of its own -- if so, they would be "chef prepared menus." So what do they have, a cook? But you know, anyplace that has a cook will call the cook a "chef" (except a barbeque place), because after all what is a chef? The word isn't like, say, ketchup, whose definition is regulated by the Federal government. So a chef is whatever we say it is, and if this place doesn't even have a cook to call a chef, then what do they have? My suspicion is that early every morning they go down to one of the local day laborer places and pick up the least-scruffy looking specimen they can find. They stick an apron over his head and a spatula in his hand and, voila!, you have a, well... not a chef.

Which brings us to those menus. Notice that the recipes aren't the creations of real chefs. No, they are merely inspired by chefs. At first I found this surprising, because if they wanted real chefs' recipes, then for a few bucks at the local Goodwill store (not far, perhaps, from one of those day laborer outfits), they could pick up any number of cookbooks written by real chefs -- the likes of Paul Prudhomme and Graham Kerr (I still remember watching the Galloping Gourmet when I was a kid). But I guess it's too much to expect a hash-slinger you picked up at Laborers R'Us to prepare a recipe created by, say, Michael Ruhlman. So they are reduced, in the end, to chef inspired menus.

How does that work, do you think. Do they tack up a picture of, say, Julia Child, and tell Mr. Spatula-of-the-Day, "Look real hard at that picture -- oh, go ahead and squint if you must -- and then prepare the meal that comes to your mind"?

In that case, see the title of this post.

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Surprisingly "Big Thinks" from H. G. Wells

I've finished The Island of Dr. Moreau, by H. G. Wells. I enjoyed it very much, but one thing in particular really jumped out at me. This book was written in 1896, yet Wells's description of what is unmistakably PTSD (or "shellshock," as it used to be more vividly called) is truly remarkable. I'll try to illustrate without giving away any more of the story that Wells himself gives away in the Introduction, but this is how the narrator introduces his condition:
They say that terror is a disease, and anyhow I can witness that for several years now a restless fear has dwelt in my mind
Then he talks about how he knows he's crazy, but can't help it:
I could not persuade myself that the men and women I met were not also another [redacted] and that would presently begin to revert
Even more remarkably, he finds professional help:
But I have confided my case to a strangely able man {snip}; a mental specialist, -- and he has helped me mightily, though I do not expect that the terror of that island will ever altogether leave me.
And it never does. Does the following sound like a panic attack to you, too:
At most times it [the terror] lies far in the back of my mind, a mere distant cloud, a memory, and a faint distrust; but there are times when the little cloud spreads until it obscures the whole sky. Then I look about me at my fellow-men; and I go in fear. {snip} I shrink from them....

When I lived in London the horror was well-nigh insupportable. {snip} ...prowling women would mew after me; furtive, craving men glance jealously at me.... {snip} Then I would turn aside into some chapel, -- and even there, such was my disturbance, it seemed that the preacher gibbered "Big Thinks".... {snip} Particularly nauseous were the bland, expressionless faces of people in trains and omnibuses; they seemed no more my fellow-creatures than dead bodies would be, so that I did not dare to travel....
Wow. Creepy. And consider that Wells, although raised in poverty, never served in a traumatic situation; he was, in fact, a socialist and a pacifist, so he would have had no personal experience with shellshock.

I just have one final, secret aside, for Prendick's ears only. If you aren't Prendick, don't listen:

The preachers? That's really not in your head. They really are gibbering "Big Thinks."

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Happy Birthday, Satch

Leroy Satchel Paige famously claimed that no one knew when he had been born, and that even led him to coin one of my favorite sayings: "How old would you be if you didn't know when you were born?" However, like so many of Satchel's autobiographical claims, it was hooey. The man who might have been baseball's greatest pitcher was born on this day, July 7th, in 1906.

So, how old would you be if you didn't know when you were born?


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Haiku Tuesday

at my side He lay,
as His great heart slowed, slept, and
then stilled forever

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 05, 2010

All pieces of the same puzzle

Recently, Judi and I had a friendly debate over the meaning of the word whore. No, it's not what you think: The word came up in a magazine article about a television character, and the discussion centered around whether remuneration has to be required, or whether simple licentiousness is enough. When I got home I decided to look it up in the dictionary, and that's when I found this fascinating etymology in the American Heritage Dictionary:

Whore has been traced all the way back to the original Indo-European root, karo, meaning "to like" or "desire." From this, the early Germanic languages derived a word, horaz (how the "ka" sound became the "ho" sound is something I'm sure etymologists understand), meaning "one who desires," with a specific sense of "adulterer." From this, in turn, we derived our Modern English word.

But wait! There's more: The same Indo-European root, karo, passed into the Latin branch of languages as carus, meaning "dear." From this we have borrowed ("borrowed" is the verb etymologists use for "loan words," as if we have to return them someday, perhaps with interest)... but, as I started to say, we have borrowed into Modern English care, cherish, caress, and, the ultimate in selfless love, charity. So the words whore and cherish come from the same root.

But wait! There's more: The same Indo-European root passed into the Sanskrit branch of languages as kama, meaning "love," with a particular sense of the physical expressions of love -- not just sex, but also kissing, caressing, and hugging -- and we are familiar with this word in Modern English due to its presence in the title of a famous, ancient work, the Kama Sutra.

At first, what fascinated me was simply the many words with different, seemingly conflicting meanings that have derived from this simple root. But then, the more I thought about it, the more the words fit together. Because, when you love someone, one of the feelings you have towards that person is ravenous lust... in the sense of whore? You also cherish that person above all else, and care about him or her even above your own welfare. And again, although you lust for physical love, you also find fulfillment in kissing, hugging, caressing, and loving sex.

So it seems, to me anyway, that this word karo, from our ancient mother-tongue, has traveled through time and through different daughter-languages to converge in our language today as a set of words that, collectively, describe some of the many facets of that complex feeling we call love. How fitting is that?

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Independence Day

My sincere thanks to Jen over at EPBOT for calling my attention to this terrific video*:

Jen was much taken with Thomas Jefferson (who was, you will remember, a skilled violinist), but Ben Franklin is my favorite. History buffs may quibble about the details in this video, but if want to quibble, quibble with someone else. I love it!

* In case you're coming across this after the post has scrolled off EPBOT, this is the link to the specific post.


Saturday, July 03, 2010


In my previous post, about Kindle for Android, I mentioned that it doesn't have search, or dictionary look-up. Okay, I thought, it's running on a phone. But I also have an app called Aldiko on my Nexxus, which is an absolutely free e-book reader that you can mostly use to read public domain books (I'm reading The Island of Dr. Moreau at the moment), and I just discovered that this free e-book reader supports both searching the content of a book, and dictionary look-up. Kindle for Android isn't exactly free -- I had to buy my original Kindle, and of course I had to buy the books -- so am I expecting too much if I think it should support the same feature set as a free competing product (and the original Kindle)?

If you have a Kindle, and an Android phone, I still think getting Kindle for Android is a no-brainer. It's a great product. But, hey, Amazon, catch up with the competition, okay?


Thursday, July 01, 2010

::hopping excitedly::

Kindle for Android was released a couple of days ago! I'd been waiting for it, and there was a touch of cosmic irony in that I found out about the release while reading tech news headlines... on my Nexxus. Of course I instantly touched over to Android Market and installed it.

It's awesome!

It brings most of the features of the Kindle to the Android platform, though search, and definition lookup, seem to be missing; and from what I've read you can't create notes. But (unlike most Android apps I've tried) it's intuitive and stable. What really impressed me was when I opened a book that I'm in the process of reading on my real Kindle... opened to the page where I had left off on the Kindle! So I can bop back and forth, reading the same book on the Kindle and Nexxus, and it keeps my place.

That's a nice touch.

If you have a Kindle, and you have an Android-running phome, get this app!


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

No, I haven't died; I've just been very busy

Now that the U.S. has been eliminated from the World Cup, I can post about this without fear of jinxing us.

I've been awed by how much the World Cup has captured the imaginations of people in the United States -- or at least people around me. I've seen die-hard baseball, football, and basketball fans, who swear that soccer is for sissies, watching World Cup games that the U.S. isn't even playing in. People who aren't even interested in sports under normal conditions have been heard discussing what win, loss, or tie will get the U.S. out of the Group Round; or indignant over that blown call in the England game.

Anyway, this is the World Cup story that I have to tell:

It was the morning of the U.S.-Algeria game. You may recall that this was a must-win for the U.S. Either a loss or a tie would have eliminated us. I happened to be in my car and was able to listen to the first fifteen minutes on the radio. Then I was back at work. I called up a site that was live blogging the game, but of course I had to work, so I only checked it from time to time. The score stayed tied. I checked at the eighty-sixth minute -- only four to go -- and the score was still tied. Discouraged, I went back to work.

My cube farm has a conference room on one side, and the cafeteria is on the other side of the conference room. I was deep into coding and had actually forgotten about the game a few minutes later when I suddenly heard the sound of a crowd cheering in the cafeteria. Cheering? My coworkers aren't the type who cheer spontaneously at odd times. And then it occurred to me: Maybe the game was on the televisions in there. I quickly brought up the live blog and hit refresh. Yes! U.S. goal!

But what really got me excited wasn't the U.S. victory. It was the realization that a crowd of my coworkers had been standing in the cafeteria, anxiously watching those final, nail-biting minutes.

Welcome, America, to the World Cup.

Labels: ,

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I took a picture of this...

...because otherwise you might not believe it. This is in the Macy's at the Plaza Las Americas mall in San Juan, Puerto Rico:

iPod Vending Machine

It's a vending machine for iPods and iPod accessories.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'm in Puerto Rico...

...and this is the view from my balcony:

Labels: , ,

Monday, April 12, 2010

I wonder if it ever crosses Nero Wolfe's mind...

...that neologism was once a new word.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Our company has each other!

If you look up solecism in the dictionary, I'm pretty sure you'll find a picture of this poster:

Each Other

...which is hung on the side of a cube where I work.

Labels: ,

Friday, April 02, 2010


The weather has been gorgeous here; so gorgeous that Judi has been leaving the sliding glass door open, so the dogs can go out and in freely.

The day before yesterday Judi was sitting at a table when she heard her little beagle Stormi come inside. She sensed Sunni sit down on the floor beside her, though she didn't really look. Then she felt a tiny cold nose touch her calf. Looking down, Stormi was looking up. Then Stormi bent her head and nudged the cap of an acorn that she had brought in and dropped on the floor. Then she looked back up at Judi. The acorn cap was her gift to her Mommy.

Stormi in Mommys Chair
Stormi in Mommy's Chair

Stormi the Cutie

Labels: , , ,

Monday, March 22, 2010

Of course, there won't even be newspapers in 2063....

I just discovered this quote from Vladimir Nabokov:
With the Devil's connivance I open a newspaper of 2063 and in some article on the books page I find: "Nobody reads Nabokov and Fulmerford today." Awful question: Who is this unfortunate Fulmerford?
Who, indeed? I want to know.


Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Local Botanical Garden

Yesterday I was at the local university, Florida Institute of Technology, for the annual Botanical Fest. It was for the butterflies -- you can read all about that here. But I also had an opportunity to wander around the campus, where I attended college more than thirty years ago, with my camera.

The university has a botanical garden that's more extensive than you would think for such a small institution in such a populated setting. Here are a few pictures. As usual, you can click on a picture for a larger version:

Growing around a tree

I think it's impossible for capture the intricate tapestry of overlapping palmetto fronds with a camera, but I keep trying (and getting frustrated):


This winter has been extraordinarily cold, leaving us with more "turned" leaves and bare trees than usual:

Turned Leaves

A match made in Heaven:

Match Made in Heaven


Friday, February 26, 2010

May You Have Interesting Ancestors!

According to my brother, the genealogist in my family, this guy was our direct ancestor:
SIMEON SMITH was the man [who was a friend and familiar companion to Reuben Clement, who might have been crazy], --and all of his neighbors as long as he lived believed that he was an adept at the black art. Of him it was alleged, "That some gloomy night, like those chosen by magicians to invoke spirits, he had called up the devil at the cross roads where four roads met in his native town, and to obtain superhuman powers he had agreed to be his liege man, and had then kissed Satan's cloven hoof." Wonderful were the feats that he could perform. Sometimes, from sheer malice, he would saddle and bridle one of his neighbors, and ride and gallop him all over the country round. Then turning jack-o'-lantern, with counterfeiting voice he would call some loitering person through the woods, around marshy ponds into tangled thickets, and leave him lost in the cold damp swamp. The butter would not come, and he was in the churn; the cat mewed and jumped wildly about the house, and he tormented her; the children behaved strangely, and he had bewitched them. Smaller than a gnat, he could go through the key hole; larger than a giant, he was seen at twilight stalking through the forest. He could travel in the thin air, and mounted on a moonbeam could fly swift as the red meteor over the woods and the mountains.
This is from The History of Warren, a Mountain Hamlet, Located Among the White Hills of New Hampshire, by William Little, published in 1870. My ancestor may not have been as interesting as all that, however, because the book goes on to say:
Without doubt all this was pious scandal, worthy of the Puritans, for Simeon Smith was a good man, and in spite of their superstition compelled the respect of his neighbors. He came to Warren in February, 1773, bring his family and worldly effects in a one-horse vehicle, known among farmers as a "jumper." He settled on Red Oak hill, and lived for a time with that restive little backwoodsman, Mr. John Morrill. Mr. Smith was likewise a small-sized man, smart to work and quick-motioned. He had a large family, two or three boys old enough to help, and before another winter he had a comfortable cabin of his own.
Drat! ;)

Labels: ,

Sunday, February 14, 2010

How romantic!

So what kind of business would you want to be sure would be open on Valentine's Day? You know, for those last minute Valentine's Day needs. A florist? A confectioner? No. What you really need is:

Pawn Shop

A pawn shop.

I was startled at first to see this pawn shop advertise that it will be open on Valentine's Day, but, gradually, the common sense of the matter won me over:

If you need cash to buy a last minute Valentine's Day gift, you can get it at a pawn shop. If you need to buy a last minute Valentine's Day gift -- anything from earrings to a trombone to a gun -- you can buy it at a pawn shop. And when you receive a totally inappropriate Valentine's Day gift ("Oh! Honey! You knew exactly what I wanted! A Glock 17!"), you can turn into cash (always an appropriate gift) at a pawn shop. And even though Valentine's Day falls on a Sunday this year, you won't have to wait until tomorrow, because this pawn shop is open today and stands ready to fill your every need!

What could be more romantic?

And on a serious note, Happy Lunar New Year to all my three readers!


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

[nyc] Times Square

No visit to New York would be complete without an evening spent in Times Square. And no part of Times Square is more iconic than its high-tech billboards. "Look, my little children, at the amazing billboards! The M&M's! The Hot Wheels cars! The..."



Maybe there should be a prime-time each evening when the billboards are family-friendly. Late-night billboards can come out after that.

Speaking of M&M's, there is a three-floor store at the north end of Time Square devoted exclusively -- all three floors -- to merchandise featuring the-candy-that-melts-in-your-mouth-not-in-your-hand. I kid you not:

M&M Store

I had no idea there was so much M&M merchandise available.

And no evening in Times Square -- no matter how cold it is -- is complete without protesters:

Gaza Protest

Next up, my final post of pictures from my New York trip: The skaters at Rockefeller Center.

Labels: , ,

[nyc] High Line Park

If you want the full scoop on Manhattan's newest park, the High Line, you can start by clicking here, and remember, Google is your friend; but here's the Cliff Notes version:

As hard as it may be to believe with today's real estate prices, there was a time early in the previous century when there were stockyards, slaughterhouses, and meat packing plants in Manhattan. They were connected by a private rail line that ran up the Lower West Side, carrying carcasses and killing the occasional pedestrian in the process. In the 1930s the pedestrian count got too high, and they decided to elevate the train tracks. The trains ran until the early 1980s, when Manhattan became too precious for meat packing, and the elevated railway was abandoned. In the 1990s, it was going to be torn down, but some enterprising souls had an idea: Turn it into an elevated city park! And today it's the High Line.

The whole idea is just so cool, we had to check it out.

It was cold. Cold, cold, cold. But that didn't prevent some New Yorkers from... er, sunbathing?

Catching Rays?

The lounge chairs are actual rolling stock that can be run up and down sections of the old train tracks:

Rolling Stock

How cool is that? Here's Judi trying it out:

Judi Catching Rays

Here's a view of the park:


Here's a view from the park, of the Empire State Building:

Empire State Building

Park benches:


Next up: Times Square!

Labels: , ,

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Progress Achieved, promise made

Northern bro.

I have to say up front this entry has nothing to do with politics. Instead I reflect on Christmas carols. Evelyn, our three year old (with considerable prodding from my wife) really got into singing Christmas carols this year. I’ve got to say, there is nothing like hearing your three year old belt out O Little Town of Bethlehem or Jingle Bells. However, after dinner when we move to the living room for a little family time (which is before pajama time, which is before reading time, which is before bedtime) her favorite song to listen and dance to was ….. Snoopy’s Christmas. As it turns out Linda has a CD that has all three songs from the Snoopy vs. Red Baron saga and as far as Evelyn was concerned these are simply different parts of one long song.

So I had the opportunity to (or was cursed with, depending on your perspective) listening to these three songs many times this holiday season. I must say it was a mixed experience. On the one hand, as a history buff I am glad that Evelyn has learned the name of her first historical character, Baron Von Richthofen, hence the progress achieved. On the other hand what she has learned about this character was the sworn enemy and later the friend of a shootin’ beagle. Oh well, I guess you have to start somewhere.

There are several verses to this saga that I have forgotten from childhood. For instance, I did not remember that in the second song Snoopy has forced Red to land and is getting ready to finish him off. The dog also lands, jumps out of the plane and approaches his enemy who ‘fires a shot and turns to run before Snoopy has a chance to raise is gun.’ You know, I never thought of Snoopy packing before. At first the thought was disturbing until I realized it explained two things. It explains why Charlie Brown put up with so much from the dog. Second, I always wondered what Snoopy carried in that briefcase in the MetLife commercials. Now I know it was probably his Glock. Only later did it occur to me to wonder if Snoopy was the only Peanuts character to carry a sidearm. Did Schroder keep an M16 in his piano?

On another note, Good King Wenceslaus was also a favorite this season. This went over much better for me as it is one of my favorite carols. But here is the promises made portion of this post: If I am ever granted the superpower of the Good King (apparently his feet could warm the ground “Heat was in the very sod that the saint had printed”) then I will use that power to fight crime. Not sure yet exactly how that will work.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Now that's embarrassing

ESPN Radio has taken over a station in my area. I'm not much of a sports fan, but sometimes I like to listen to talk radio, instead of music, and ESPN is loads better than Rush. Anyway, I heard both of these gems on ESPN Radio on the same day:
"You can't see the forest through the trees."
Yes, there's a forest over there, but you wouldn't know it because some durn fool went and planted trees.
"You don't wanna know what skeletons they're going to dig up in his closet."
For some reason I always thought that ESPN personalities were pretty well paid, but apparently this one is so destitute that he lives in a house where the closets, at least, have dirt floors. Here I am a lowly computer programmer, and even I live in a house where the closets have carpet-over-concrete floors.

But these aren't what's embarrassing (the title of this post). No, what's embarrassing is this: I was checking my server logs, and found that someone had come, not to this blog, but to one of my trip albums over on, by searching Google Australia for the string "i undressed to my boxer shorts".


Really. You can try it for yourself:

In my defense (such as it is), the passage that the result links to was meant to be innocuous:
I think I've mentioned how hot it is here [St. Maarten]. You can only wear an outfit once -- it gets so soaked with sweat, it's toast after that. To wit: By the time we got back to the resort today, and I undressed, my boxer shorts, clean that morning, had a solid white stain at inch high all the way across the front, where they crease while I'm sitting. It was salt. From sweat.
Still, embarrassing.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

[nyc] Chinatown

Lots of pictures in this one!

We decided to take a walking tour of Chinatown. After much looking online, I picked this one, which turned out to be great: Chinatown Walking Tour Map - New York Chinatown Map and Guide. I strongly recommend this guide if you want just a walking tour (and not a culinary tour).

Two surprises were (1) that the oldest cemetery in New York (1683) is in Chinatown, and (2) that it's Jewish. The First Shearith Israel Graveyard:

Shearith Israel tombstone

If you click for the larger image, you can read that Josaih Ellis died on October 8th, 1798.

Next up is a meat market whose window is plastered with posterboard in Chinese -- I assume cuts of meat and prices:

Shop Window

It was really, really cold during our walk. About halfway through, we were looking for a place were we could warm up and drink some hot tea. The tour recommended the Golden Unicorn, so we dropped in. The Golden Unicorn is a dim sum establishment. We asked for only hot tea, but they rolled the cart over, and we were intrigued, so we ended up trying a few baskets. The food was excellent. A bigger challenge was that Judi's mother had never eaten with chopsticks, and Judi hadn't in a very long time, and had lost the knack. It came back to her, though:

Judi eating dim sum

Until she got really good at it:

Judi, mistress of chopsticks

They did not offer us forks, by the way.

In case you ever need any tasty hand-pulled noodles, this is your place:

Tasty hand pulled noodles

Purportedly New York's first dim sum parlor -- you can't read it even in the larger version, but the date painted on the window is 1920:

First dim sum

I'm not sure what role this life-sized plastic Homer Simpson plays in Chinatown, but there you are:

Homer Simpson in Chinatown

Perhaps if this blog has a visitor who can read Chinese, he or she can interpret the placard in Homer's armpit for us.

Here are Judi and her mother standing on a streetcorner waiting for the light (I made it across before they did). Notice how they stand out against the dark-clad natives:

Judi and her mother on a streetcorner

This bike, chained to a lamppost at the end of the Manhattan Bridge (the Manhattan end of which originates at the edge of Chinatown), memorializes a bicyclist who was killed on the Bridge:


It seemed fitting.

An intersection (nothing more):


The tour ended at the Mahayana Buddhist Temple -- the largest in Chinatown, according to the guide. That was very interesting (and another chance to take a break from the cold). I hadn't been in there very long before my Reiki "turned on" full blast. There are a number of altars, each different. Here's one:


Next up, the High Line Park!

Labels: , ,

Saturday, January 02, 2010

[nyc] Rooftop Gardens

Every time I stay in a big city -- one with tall buildings -- I never fail to find rooftop gardens. It seems ubiquitous that some city residents set up gardens on the roofs of their buildings. I find them fascinating. We weren't very high up in our hotel, but here are a few rooftop gardens that were in view:

Rooftop Garden

Rooftop Garden

This isn't a garden per se, but it's my favorite: A square of fake grass, a table, an umbrella, and four chairs. It would have been interesting to see people seated around this table, except that it was the dead of winter:

Rooftop Garden

Next time, a terrific tour of Chinatown.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 31, 2009

[nyc] Saks Window, and Sunrise

If you read the previous post, you know I spent a few days in New York City a couple of weeks ago. I was just looking at the pictures I took while there, and I've decided to post(v.) a series of posts(n.) featuring some of the ones I like. I'm doing this because, well... because it's easier to create blog posts of photos than it is to actually write interesting content.

Here are two to get us started. The first is a detail from one of the Christmas windows in Saks on Fifth Avenue:

Saks window

I like airplanes.

The second picture was taken from our hotel window the next morning, and shows the rising sun shining on the ornate face of the Ansonia, an exclusive apartment building that was across Broadway and a block south:

Sunrise on the Ansonia

The Ansonia was built around 1900 and is said to be the second most famous building on the Upper West Side, after the Dakota.

You can click on these pictures and any others in this series to see a larger version.

Next, I think, will be rooftop gardens.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


It so happened that I was in New York City this past weekend. When the blizzard hit. The snow began falling about midday on Saturday, and by Saturday evening it was coming down pretty good. It was fascinating to sit in my hotel room, overlooking Broadway on the Upper West Side, and watch the circumstances of humanity as they unfolded in the snow.

There were a couple of things about New Yorkers in a snowstorm that were starkly different from my memories of winter in New Hampshire. The first was the large number of people who were using umbrellas:

Umbrella in a snowstorm

Umbrella in a snowstorm

Umbrellas in a snowstorm? What are you thinking? Where I came from, we wore a hat or scarf over our head, and just let the snow fall on it. As cold as it was outside, everyone should have had a hat or scarf anyway.

The other thing that struck me was the large number of people riding bicycles in the storm:

Bicycle in a snowstorm

People, snow and bicycles do not mix. Not unless you're a bicycle messenger and you have no choice. Early in the evening the bicycles plowed through, but as it got later and the snow appeared to be about three inches deep, the bicyclists began to have a lot of trouble with control. Their front wheels slid back and forth and they were jerking the handlebars to try to keep balance. Not to mention frequently touching the ground with a foot. Taxis were following one guy who was in the middle of the uptown lane, and as he swerved around they were honking at him constantly. It was dangerous.

The hotel was directly across the street from the Broadway Fairway Market, which I guess is one of the most popular grocery stores in Manhattan. It was doing a brisk business (thus providing me with lots of material for observation). At about eleven o'clock a woman left the market. She was wearing an ankle-length black coat and a scarf over her head. She was accompanied by a smaller person -- perhaps a teenaged girl -- in a white parka and white hood, and a child -- a boy? -- in a dark coat and a black ski cap. The little boy was exhuberant, throwing himself on the ground to make a snow angel, then jumping up and kicking snow in the air, then grabbing up snow for a snowball. He was enjoying the storm. The woman was trying desperately but somewhat timidly to hail a taxi. She was standing way back from the edge of the traffic lane and had her arm up, but seemed to wave her hand hesitantly. I freely admit I'm no expert, but in my very limited experience the best way to get a cab is, if not to actually jump in front of it, at least make a run at it.

Anyway, this lady's technique wasn't working. But what tickled me is that every time a taxi passed without stopping (which was often -- practically the only cars on the road by this time were taxies), the exhuberant child would pelt it with a snowball.

A taxi would pass.

::snowball:: Thud!


::snowball:: Thud!


::snowball:: Thud!

::snowball:: Thud!

::snowball:: Thud!

It's a wonder his arm didn't get tired.

Slowly and quietly this little group worked their way up Broadway to 75th, and they stood there at that corner for quite a while, she flagging, he pelting. The woman seemed to not even notice the child, who I silently rooted for in his assault on the cabs, the cabs that didn't stop. Then suddenly the woman collected the white parka and the small child and crossed Broadway eastbound, disappearing from my sight. Where was she going? Why had she given up on the taxis? What was her new plan? How did they get home? I'll never know.

75th and Broadway

Labels: ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?