Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Five Degrees.

I went to college with JFK, Jr. (Yes, at the same time. I waited on him at the library.)
JFK, Jr. dated Daryl Hannah
Daryl Hannah was in Steel Magnolias with Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts was in Flatliners with Kevin Bacon

I'm five degrees from Kevin Bacon.

I would love to make a direct connection between Daryl and Kevin, but haven't been able to. Using Google for help, it seems either Julia Roberts or Tom Hanks are necessary to make the connection. The closest I've been able to come is that both Daryl and Kevin have been guest stars on Will and Grace (but not on the same episode), and both of them have been interviewed on a DVD about director Ron Howard. But they were undoubtedly interviewed separately, so I guess that doesn't count, either.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Separated at birth? #2

Charlotte Rampling
Mohammad Atta

Friday, July 20, 2007

Separated at birth? #1

Glenn Close
Montgomery Burns

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Workin' at the car wash.

Across from the town dump that I visit every Saturday morning is a play field with a parking lot, in which fundraising groups (a different one every weekend) hold $5 car washes. My first car wash of the season was by the high school boys' lacrosse team. They worked cheerfully alongside their dads, and approached each car with an organized strategy and a sense of energetic urgency.

Too bad they did a crummy job on my car. After a week of driving around with embarassing dusty streaks on my car, I pulled into the same parking lot the following Saturday. This time, it was girls' lacrosse. I handed a mom my $5 and said "The boys' lacrosse team washed this car last week and as you can see they didn't do a very good job. Let's show them we women know how to get car clean!!"

The nice lady got a laugh out of that, and shouted my message ahead to the girls with their hoses and sponges. I must say they worked up a lather on my car, but still left a few dirty spots.

Skip ahead two rainy weeks. It's a beautiful day. I drop off my trash and recyclables and have time to kill before my laundry's done. And the Dance Team is washing cars. Why not? The lady taking the 5's said I looked familiar, but we couldn't figure out where we knew each other from.

From the outset, things didn't look good. The supposedly high-energy dancers moved slowly, with no obvious plan of attack. They hovered around my car for several moments before anyone reached forward with a sponge. One walked up to my window and smiled at me. Then they started hesitantly swabbing at my car. A couple dabs, then walk away and swab at a different place. A dad came over to stand on a 4-gallon bucket and do the roof. Never seen that technique before. More smiles, but I didn't actually see much washing going on.

I pulled forward to the dads with the rinsing hoses, and found they used a similar "technique." A couple squirts, then get distracted. Someone else sprayed me again, then walked away. Finally, someone walked around and did the driver's side. Finally, a thumb's up sign meaning I was done.

Oh, well. I'll have to start saving money and washing my own car, I thought.

When I came out of the grocery store, I discovered the truth.

The Dance Team got my car THE CLEANEST IT'S EVER BEEN.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Fifth recital down.

Today I sang a German art piece ("Still vie die Nacht" by Karl Bohm), a Tom Lehrer song, and was in the chorus of a number from "The Mikado."

I've sung in 5 recitals since 2005. I took voice lessons for a year before getting up there at all. Early lessons revealed odd auditory-processing problems with pitch that, thankfully, did (and still do) improve with practice.

One of the songs at my first recital was "Little Lamb," which a young Natalie Wood sang in "Gypsy," a movie I saw when I was 3. I couldn't sing it without crying for the first few months of learning it because of memories connected to a trauma at that age. My voice teacher was a saint. I'd sing 8 measures, cry, and then we'd do it all over again the following week. Getting to where I could sing it in public was a victory in itself.

In fact, all of these 5 recitals have been mostly about getting up there. Performing through the quaking knees, spasming lungs, and quivering cords of stage fright. Well, yahoo, I've done it, I'm a trooper, yada yada.

I'm done with being Ms. Trooper. Next time, I don't want my performance to be about being brave. I want it to be about the performance. Next time, I don't want to just get up there.

I want to knock 'em dead.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Dance right through your life.

This horse has the right idea.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Bumper sticker sighted today.

"My country invaded Iraq and all I got was this expensive gas."

Favorite bumper sticker of 2004 election season:
"Bush: Let's not elect him this time either."

Only bumper sticker I've had:
"If you can read this, you are in phaser range."

Friday, May 25, 2007

My favorite names (a list in progress).

Mario Hilario (a newscaster in Rhode Island)
Will Paradise (an ex-boss)
Henry Vumbaca (honorable mention to his dad, Dino Vumbaca)
Kim Komando (if this were not taken, I'd change my name to it)

I don't choose names for this list just because they're funny-sounding. The Name of the Year blog already does that. The name has to be someone I've known, or that I can personally document. And it has to be a name that one (especially me) would actually like to have. My favorite names are those that make me think that the person having the name must be a really neat person in some way.

That's why I'm torn about Coco Crisp (a Red Sox player). It's an irresistable name, but I'm not sure if I can call it favorite or desirable. Well, I can't get it out of my head. And I think his mom must have been a really neat person for giving it to him, so what the heck...

Coco Crisp
Isabel Kunkle
Tara Roach
Sara Finck
Sue Shein

Friday, May 18, 2007

Geeks' night out.

O'Reilly Media (the company I work for) is holding the first Ignite Boston! at Tommy Doyle's in Harvard Square on May 31. Ignite Boston is based on the Ignite Seattle events, founded by Brady Forrest (www.igniteseattle.com). The concept behind Ignite is that it's a place for geeks to drink beer, hang out, MAKE something, and learn from each other.

From 6:00-7:00 PM we'll be building bridges! Using only 1000 popsicle sticks and a glue gun, can your team engineer the strongest bridge?

After that, author Scott Berkun (The Myths of Innovation; The Art of Project Management) will kick off the event with a keynote talk on...what else...innovation! Following Scott (until about 10:00 PM), other guest speakers will each have five minutes to tell you about some of the cool, new stuff going on in tech today.

So come and mingle with alpha geeks. And if you're an alpha geek -- or just make something really cool -- you can submit a proposal here: http://ignitenight.thirdeye.railsplayground.net/events/form/ignite_cambridge

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


OK, I took this picture at 3:45 PM. I looked up from my computer and thought I had fallen asleep and woken up at 8:45 PM. It was that dark out. It wasn't raining very hard, just scarily dark. Later, there was thunder, and warnings of possible hail or even a tornado. I love thunder.

We had some crazy weather a few weeks ago, too. I woke up one night and thought I was having an aural hallucination. It sounded like a freight train was passing over the roof of our house. Later, my voice coach, who's from the South, told me that freight train sound is indicative of a tornado. I've never heard anything like it in my life. A totally alien sound to my ears. We don't get many tornadoes in the Northeast.

Monday, May 14, 2007

More fundraising.

The Marathon Mama update: Kristina Pinto met her goal of raising over $7,500 for the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge. As you'll see if you click the link, a serious knee injury prevented her from completing the 26.2 miles of the race...on race day, anyway. Kristina is determined to finish the course as soon as her knee allows. Amazing.

Here's another local guy, One Food Guy, who's riding 192 miles in the Pan-Mass Challenge in August to raise money for cancer. There's still a lot more work to do, so I encourage you to sponsor Scott if you are able.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

More knitting in spirit.

I did eventually finish the prayer shawl I wrote about in an earlier post. I'm going to start another one, but meanwhile here's a perfect and timely project for those looking for a smaller time committment: Hokie Healing. (Hokie is the name for the Virginia Tech athletes.)

Knitters and crocheters are asked to create 8" x 8" squares using the school colors (maroon, orange, white, and black), and mail them by May 31, 2007 to:
Mosaic Yarn Shop
880 University City Blvd.
Blacksburg, VA

The squares will be sewn into blankets given to the victims' families.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Pee and Q.

One late morning recently I saw a well dressed, well groomed young man, complete with cellphone and messenger bag, relieving himself against this column. He was actually standing on the opposite side of this brick wall, and had enough class to face away from the street. Although I could only see his upper body, the posture was unmistakable. I pretended I didn't know what he was doing, and he pretended he didn't know I was walking by. Actually I think he really didn't know I was there.

I wonder what made him think this column was a good place to take a leak. It's adjacent to our office building's parking garage, which leads me to the real Q:

What is it about parking garages that reminds males of bathrooms?

Saturday, April 21, 2007


A couple of weeks ago, some loser hacked my MySpace page and started sending out spam MySpace Bulletins to all my MySpace Friends making it appear that they were coming from me. Actually they were. This person -- er, loser -- captured my username and password and logged right into my account, using it as their own. Furthermore, the loser added some code to my page so that anyone clicking a link on my page would be directed to said loser's own IP address, where their name and password would also be captured.

I'm surprised that more hasn't happened...said loser almost undoubtedly has my valuable email address, and should be bombarding me with spam, but isn't. I have no idea why someone would do this. Anyone wanting to send out spam MySpace Bulletins could create a new MySpace identity in a matter of seconds. Why bother hijacking the account of someone with a total of 9 MySpace Friends?

Here's how it happened:
I was surfing MySpace late one night, and landed on a "You must be logged in to do that" page. No matter that I was already logged in: Many Web sites ask you to reenter your password periodically, so I did.

Here's how to prevent it from happening from you:
MySpace never asks for your password while you're logged in unless you navigate away from MySpace. If you see the "You must be logged in to do that" page, look at your browser's address bar. If you see a misspelled version of "myspace.com" or a numerical IP address, DO NOT type your email address and password. To do so is giving them away to a phisherman. Back out of the page immediately.

Here's how to fix it if it does:
If you've been hacked, you'll find you can't get to your own MySpace home page. Anytime you click your Home link (or anywhere on your own profile page, actually), you'll go to the hacker's IP address. Instead, go to someone else's MySpace page, click Home on that page, and then click "Edit Profile." You'll find some unfamiliar code in your "About me" field. (It's much easier to spot if you have not customized your MySpace page.) Delete that malicious code, and things should be back to normal. At least, this was all I had to do to fix the problem.

I grok MySpace. But I don't understand it.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Is that your professional opinion, sir?

This is the receipt from my Toyota Matrix's first oil change. I love how my mechanic gives me my car's diagnosis in lay terms.

Still, it feels good to have a VERY NICE CAR.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I'm famous.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you probably know that I already know how to knit. But as you can see, I give an Oscar® worthy performance in this screencast on knitting instruction by Brian Sawyer on the Hacks Blog.

(And if you don't know what a hack is yet, here's an example of some Blogging Hacks from hackszine.com.)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

I missed the lunar eclipse.

I missed seeing the lunar eclipse yesterday, even though I checked the time and bearing and drove out trying to see it.

I saw my first lunar eclipse in Belmont, Massachusetts. 1997, I think. I was on my way to an ensemble music class (I played flute, and the class included piano, violin, and cello.) The moon looked orange, just like this.

I really wanted to see the orange moon again this time, but in Eastern Massachusetts the total eclipse was just after moonrise, and it was also a cloudy night. All I saw was gray.

I think I could have seen it if I had driven farther and looked harder.

Photo of the 2007 total lunar eclipse in Massachusetts credit to Mike Theiss, from Weather Underground.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Where has this man been all my life?

A few nights ago, I woke up in the middle of the night, with a memory. I was a pre-teenager, seeing someone named Johnnie Ray on the Jerry Lewis telethon, which I was watching with my parents. They commented on how out-of-shape he looked now that he was past his prime. I was struck by his dramatic and extreme way of using his voice and body.

Waking up in the middle of night for me usually entails a quick Google search or email check along with the usual glass of water or juice. This time, of course, I googled Johnnie Ray and found on YouTube video of him in his prime. I was enthralled by what I found:

According to most biographies, including this excellent one by Linda Rapp on glbtq.com, Ray's style was a transition from Sinatra to Elvis. Bobby Darin clearly borrowed, too. (This answers.com article has more pictures.)

I've never wished I were born 20 years earlier...until now.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I'm trying to knit a prayer shawl.

I forced my mother to show me how to knit when I was about 7. She had tried a couple of knitting projects, but didn't enjoy it. I can't believe I made her teach me something she hated. Seven-year-olds are insensitive like that. Anyway, by the time I was 12, I had knitted 2 afghans, crocheted a poncho, and made several pairs of slippers, scarves, mittens, and stuffed rabbits. My favorite pastime was grabbing whatever yarn and needles and knitting clothes around my dolls, designing them as I went along.

In college, I started knitting a sweater for a boyfriend. Luckily, my next boyfriend was about the same size. I ended up altering it into a hip-length sweater for myself. Sweaters are hard.

My next boyfriend became my fiancee. A mediocre craftsperson, I married into a family of artists. One of my new sisters-in-law told me that I would have been one of the few who flourished during the industrial revolution, I was so good at doing fast, accurate, repetitive work with my hands. I know she truly believes that she meant it as a compliment. I still find it impossible to take it as one.

More on this saga later. Bottom line, I still like to make things. That never goes away even when I'm not making them.

When I saw an ad in our church bulletin asking people to make and donate "prayer shawls" (www.shawlministry.com) for local people under nursing and hospice care, I knew I had to do it. There was a scrap of a chance that someone in the world might benefit from a skill I had to offer, and I decided to take it.

Oddly, my skill failed me. I've had to rip out more on this project than its simplicity warrants. But I've recovered. This shawl will get finished. And it may keep someone warm...not a moment too soon.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

First thaw.

"First thaw" is ironic, because we only got the first snow a few days ago. Today it finally got above 30 F. After the snow, it stayed around 20 F for a couple of days. Then the ice sheet started to melt. When I opened my hatchback to put the trash and recyclables in the car, that broke the 1.5" thick layer of ice on my roof in half, and sent the front half down onto my windshield.

Ice is heavy. I couldn't lift it off myself. But I could sort of push it off to the side and off the car. When it hit the ground, it broke into chunks, which you can see here. When I got to the dump, I noticed the frozen snow/ice layer on the back half of my roof. Again, I couldn't lift it off, and since the car radio antenna went right through the middle of it, I couldn't push it off without damaging the antenna. I ended up lifting up one side, then the next, so that it broke up into pieces about 1 foot on a side. Then I could slide them off individually.

The man in the second picture is doing the same thing with the ice from his roof, which slid down at the Stop sign in front of our house.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Didn't work.

The flower food didn't work. The roses are drooping and the chocolates are getting eaten.

All we can do is savor the smell and taste.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Valentine's Day presents.

Ben gave me a dozen pink roses. After I took this picture, they started to sag. I'm trying to revive them with freshly cut stems, warm water, and flower food. I'll let you know how it goes.

I also got an unexpected gift: I won a contest at work. It was to guess the number of conversation hearts in the jar. The prize was a box of locally handmade chocolates. Yum. I usually don't win things like this. But I'll let you know the formula that helped me win this time: Try to figure out how many of each item (jelly bean, conversation hearts, whatever) there are in each layer of the container. Then just count how many layers you can see. My winning estimate was 1256 little hearts in a big glass jar.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Nor'easter of '07

After the scary warm fall and early winter, we finally got hit -- and good. Six inches of snow on Valentine's Day, followed by so much cold that the snow and rain turned into ice rather than evaporating away as usual.

The storm alternate between snow, sleet, and freezing rain. Here's a picture of me catching some snowflakes on my arm when the snow was at its fluffiest.

I'm grateful that I can telecommute. Wasn't always the case, not by a long shot. At my previous two companies jobs I was under explicit pressure to get to the workplace, even when doing so was unsafe to the point of being foolhardy. But I did it anyway. :)

Friday, January 26, 2007

In which B. J. Hill meets the governor.

It's a go! On Monday Jan 29, B. J. will present Governor Deval Patrick with the book of messages he collected during his walk across Massachusetts.

Check out his blog. There are some new pictures from his walk across Mexico, too. Plus, he's scanned in some of the actual notebook pages.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The best Christmas present ever.

OK, there was the cellphone, and the skis, and the special dolls, and the 128 box of Crayola crayons, and all the other things I'm leaving out, but this Keurig Gourmet Single-Cup Coffee Brewing System is definitely my favorite present this year.

It's a cross between an espresso machine and a drip coffee maker. It makes the best coffee I've ever had. It makes me very happy. I'm actually drinking less coffee, because that one cup in the morning is so good.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A walk across Massachoo-choo.

Also of local interest...

As you may have noticed, I've started a little collection of Massachusetts-related links in the sidebar. My latest discovery -- A Walk Across Massachusetts -- comes a little late in the game. B. J. Hill (a 30-year-old special-ed teacher who seems like a really cool guy), has already completed his walk from the New York border to the tip of Cape Cod. B. J. finished last fall. He started out just wanting to walk across the state to get to know the place better, much the way he walked across Mexico when he was in college.

Then, as B. J. tells it: "after being invited to a town meeting in Charlemont, I found a mission. The selectmen were complaining to their state representative that the governor doesn’t seem to understand life out in rural Massachusetts. It felt like they were a million miles away from Beacon Hill." B. J. added a notebook to his backpack and started collecting messages from the people of Massachusetts, with plans to present them to the yet-to-be-elected governor.

Although the walk is done, the blog is still worth a look. The pictures he took along the way are excellent, and, yes, there's one from the Mexico walk, too. (He got a much better tan that time!) Also, the most exciting part is yet to come -- newly sworn-in governor Deval Patrick has agreed to meet with B. J. and collect the notebook! I can't wait to read the writeup of that meeting!

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Amazing CharlieCard Mitten.

Of local interest...

The MBTA (Boston's transit authority) has recently switched to a system of rechargeable fare cards. To gain entry to a subway line, you have to pass the card over a reader at the turnstyle. And an ingenious woman who takes the "T" everyday and uses her commute to get some knitting done came up with an idea -- mittens with a special buttoned pocket to hold the CharlieCard. To use it, you just pass the back of your hand over the reader -- no need to remove the card.

The Subway Knitter doesn't give a pattern. Presumably, if you can handle kitting a pair of mittens, you can handle knitting a couple of extra flaps for the front and attaching a button.

But if you'd like an authentic pair of Amazing CharlieCard Mittens, she's raffling off a pair to benefit Rosie's Place, a Boston women's shelter. (Click the PayPal link in the upper-right corner of the Subway Knitter's main blog page to enter the raffle.)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It's here.

GE delivered our new refrigerator today. I put our food in it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Swimming for Kristina - Week 3 Update.

My performance in weeks 1 and 2 was worse than embarassing. But I'm posting my update again because things are looking up. Besides, it's not as if I can actually back out of this.

This week's accomplishments:
- Increased distance. This past Sunday I swam 2/3 of a mile. My longest swim in about a decade.
- Increased consistency. Today I swam for the 3rd day in a row for the first time since I started this project. Heck, it was the first time I've swum 3 times in any one week since I started this project.
- Increased endurance. I can swim more laps -- and with better form -- before taking a break.
- Improved mood. You mean, my life isn't hopeless after all? Coolio.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Frozen non-frozen yogurt.

How can an entire quart of yogurt freeze in the bottom compartment of a refrigerator door? When it's our refrigerator, of course!

I got quite a surprise this morning when I planned to have a healthy breakfast of yogurt and a banana. That stuff was frozen solid! I couldn't even chip a piece off with a spoon. I moved the quart up to a higher shelf, and it's begun to thaw. It's about the consistency of soft ice cream now.

This well-chilled sauvignon blanc from the bottom shelf, on the other hand -- mmwah!

I raise a glass to our new refrigerator, which is due to arrive on Wednesday.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

We bring good things to...life?

GE is coming next week to insulate our water line, while we're waiting for the new appliance to arrive. Meanwhile, our vegetables have started freezing in the vegetable tray, no matter where I set the temperature control. So where do I put frozen shrimp if I want to keep them frozen? The vegetable tray seems a better bet than the freezer compartment at this point.

Should we put our Poland Springs water bottles in the fridge, or will they just freeze? That's not such a bad thing...since we won't have any ice cubes for it.

Friday, January 12, 2007

In a World...where we get a free refrigerator...

Our story begins on July 27, 2001, when my husband and I purchased a new GE refrigerator from Needham Appliance. We had to special-order a model without the ice maker/water dispenser built into the door. We didn't want to sacrifice the freezer space to an ice maker we probably wouldn't use very often, and besides, it was just one more unnecessary feature that could break.

This story isn't about Needham Appliance. Suffice it to say that we were among many people who complained to the Attorney General's Office, eventually resulting in a lawsuit. When we ordered the new fridge, our old one had died, and Needham Appliance promised we'd have our new one in a week. It took 6 weeks of living out of an ice chest, and eventually a tiny loaner refrigerator, before we got our new appliance. And that was only because we grudgingly accepted one with an ice maker, which was all GE had in stock at that point.

From the outset, we had problems with the refrigerator, all of which seemed to stem from the freezer and ice maker. First the ice maker wouldn't stop making ice, until it broke through the shelf above. GE came and gave us a new, reinforced shelf. Our frozen food frequently thawed and developed frost. Thawed liquid leaked into the water dispenser, so that we stopped using it. We almost never got intact ice from the dispenser. Most of the time, the cubes froze together into one mass. We weren't the first to have these problems either -- GE was ready with a new motherboard for us.

In 2006, I got a mailing about a class action suit against GE. Our refrigerator was one of the models in the suit. I filed the papers to get reimbursement for the repair costs incurred so far, and a free additional year of warranty. If GE couldn't solve the problems during that year, they agreed to replace the fridge entirely.

During the warranty year, GE came up with a big fix for claimants like us -- replace the refrigerator doors and the solenoid. We got our new doors. The old ones are still in the garage until we figure out how we're allowed to dispose of them. But we had ice cubes for our ginger ale again, and it seemed a luxury to have chilled, filtered drinking water again.

Last month, the ice maker fell out. Just dropped off its screws. My husband screwed it back in. The cubes froze up again. The dispenser light came on and wouldn't go off. Finally, the water stopped coming out. With the clock ticking on our warranty (today is the last day to make a claim for a replacement), we called GE. They sent someone to do a "current diagnosis" and determine whether we were eligible for a replacement.

Well, the repairman examined our fridge and determined that the water line was frozen. The recommended fix was an insulation kit for said water line. My husband called GE again. I don't know what he said, but I know GE has agreed to ship us a new fridge -- the newer version of the same model we have. With an ice maker.

Delivery date? They'll get back to us on that.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Spymac saga.

If any of you have googled my name, you've probably noticed that the #1 link is a blog on Spymac.com. And it's an empty blog. Over 3 years ago now, I found this cute new site called Spymac, that was offering an alternative to the .Mac experience, but for much less money. So I joined up, played around with it, made one blog entry, and then found that I wasn't wild about the service. Eventually, I took down my blog entry and most of my profile information. I didn't actually delete the account -- Spymac doesn't let you.

Somewhere along the line, though, that little Spymac blog amassed 800 hits, making it my #1 ranked link. And making me look like a lazy bum who can't be bothered to use her own blog.

There are 2 things I can do:

(1) Go back and delete ALL of my account information from Spymac. After some amount of time, they claim, their servers will deactivate my account permanently. I hope this means my non-blog blog will go away, but no guarantees. Meanwhile, if I decide I want to use Spymac again someday (their new Web 2.0-flavored portal page is much more facile), I can never again use my precious "nanbarber" user name.

(2) Fill in the Spymac blog with links to here and a few other places of mine and take advantage of the great ranking. Not sure I want to do this yet. I kind of like our quiet little family. Finland...Canada...and somewhere in Maryland. Inviting more traffic might just invite spam commenters and other miscreants.

Of course, anyone who's pigheaded enough to use her own name in her blog URL deserves whatever she gets...and thanks to Spymac I'm getting it. So anyway, if you've googled my name and wondered what that Spymac thing was all about, now you know. I'll let you know what I decide to do as the Spymac blog saga (blaga?) continues.

Just one more comment, for Spymac: Not letting people delete their own blogs is a tacky, tacky way to maintain your user base.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Swimming for Kristina - Week 2 Update.

My first week was pretty dismal after the first two days, but I'm happy to report that I swam 1/2 mile yesterday. Here's the latest spreadsheet. That's the kind of distance I need to do if I'm going to knock off these remaining 25 miles by April.

Swimming is happiness to me. When I'm soaring through blue-green tranquility, no sounds but my own bubbles, it's the one time when everything is OK. Or I can make a splash in the world if I want. What could be better?

The whirlpool.

Monday, January 08, 2007


I dreamt about snow last night. I had to walk to work because a few feet of snow had fallen. People were walking on top of walls of snow that were level with the roofs of cars. I used books as snowshoes, and when I had to go downhill, I sat on a book and used it as a sled.

Photo by Alex Buirds, from Wikipedia article on rain.

Friday, January 05, 2007


Today's highest temperature was 63 F, which is a record for this date.

Yesterday, though, it was only 53 F, and the record of 64 F was set in 1950. And in 1994, 7 inches of snow fell on January 4.

None of that proves anything about global warming. If 2007 turns out to be the hottest year for the entire planet, ever, I think that proves something.

(And if that link to The Register stops working, just go to Google News and search for "hottest year ever.")

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Tai Chi feely.

OK, I can't take credit for the subject line. But the person who came up with it is no longer using it, so I guess it's fair game. I laughed out loud when I saw the phrase "Tai Chi Feely" on Rick Reynolds' blog, "The Happiness Project." Tai Chi was one of the methods Rick employed to battle a serious years-long depression. Rick is a talented commedian and musician, and he made some video podcasts for his blog that I really enjoyed. A documentary of his happiness project was underway. Then all of a sudden, Rick stopped, claiming there had been a lack of interest. My guess is that he saw the value of his podcasts, and decided to stop giving them away and find a way to get paid for his work. So far, I guess he hasn't. Meanwhile, you can find some of Rick's podcasts and other work on YouTube.

I attended a few Tai Chi classes last year, and have decided to pursue it more seriously this year. Rick had a conflict with the New Agey, "feely" aspect of Tai Chi. I fell in love with it immediately. Any sport that leaves you feeling more relaxed, energized, graceful, focused, loving, and happy at the end of an hour is OK with me! It works whether or not you believe in "chi," a point I made to Rick in an email. (And he answered!)

I also love my teacher. He went to China to learn this very old form of Tai Chi. Only a very small number of Americans practice this particular form. The teacher is also an actor and singer, runs a local opera company, and directs national theater productions. This term's class is very small, which means we got special attention with our form and lots of neat information. Did you know that the U.S. military no longer does pushups, due to shoulder joint injuries. Instead, they're doing Tai Chi. You can see the difference in posture -- instead of the raised, pulled-back shoulders, soldiers are in a balanced stance with the chest open, pelvis tucked, and shoulders relaxed down. Check it out the next time you see American soldiers on TV!

He also told us about the connection between Tai Chi and Victorian body posture. A dancer came to teach his company the Viennese waltz. Moving a foot only when it's unweighted, the relaxed shoulders, open chest, soft knees, isolated joints, aligning the spine against gravity, breathing into the bottom of the lungs -- it's all exactly the same! He didn't tell her she was doing Tai Chi, but he was happy to share it with our class!

I think the most interesting piece of new information I learned today was the role of joint isolation. Isolating the joints is how young people move. Kids and young adults turn their head to look around. Older people turn their entire upper body. By learning to move your joints independently, you keep your body younger. Makes sense to me. After decades of keyboarding, it was a surprising challenge for me to rotate my wrist without moving my elbow or tightening my shoulder. I sure hope Tai Chi improves my teacher's longevity. I want to learn from him for the rest of my life!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Last (and first) snowfall of 2006.

I just want to show off my nephew, Maxwell James Spargo, wielding a snow shovel.

He's 18 months old in this picture, wearing a 3T snowsuit. At this rate, he should be ready for the NHL by the time he's 4.

That's Piper the background. She's a Sussex spaniel.

This snow has already melted. It's going to be 50 F tomorrow.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Just wanted to be one of the first Bloggerers to post in MMVII.

Photo of fireworks over Charles river credit boston.com