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

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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.

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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 According to this poster, what's happened is that individual blogging has been replaced by Facebook and Twitter.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.

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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.

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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."

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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

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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?

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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!


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