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

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 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