Wednesday, August 12, 2015

C'est Moi, La Flaneuse

I went walking yesterday after Jeopardy ended. That means not only that I am incipient old fart but also that it was 7:30 pm before I got out the door. This time of year here in Vermont that means the light is going fast.

I almost didn't go because darkness was falling and because I'm lazy. As usual, however, my minimal exertion was richly repaid.  It was such a fine experience I thought about it again today, while I was out on another walk which was also nice but not so crowded with unexpected pleasures.  I thought I should go home and write about my nice walk last night for the record.

It's not much really so feel free to leave now if you are easily bored.

More on this is a minute...

Still here? Here's how it went.

I walked down my driveway to the dirt road on which we live and from there onto the paved road which is only three houses away. The paved road is not heavily traveled so it is pleasant for walking.

The houses in our neighborhood are all different, having been added piecemeal over about the last 150 years. A derelict apple orchard was repurposed as building lots for several of them and the apple trees are still here, though not tended.  I grabbed a small sour apple as I passed the first house on the paved road and took two bites.  It was good but I didn't want to risk bowel trouble so I stopped there.  I then remembered a pledge I made to myself earlier this summer to pick some wild flowers and August tis the season for wildflowers. I wanted to pick them because this summer I bought (for one dollar at Goodwill) a little flower press.

Wildflowers, of course, grow in profusion on the roadside. I grabbed a few as a I passed, aiming for varied colors and shapes. I don't know the names of the things I picked.  There were some little daisy-like things, a purplish number that I believe might be a cornflower, buttercups (I think, they were smaller than the buttercups I remember from childhood), and those orange bell-shaped flowers that grow on something like a small bush...  People of New England, you know what I mean.

I carried these as I walked toward the red barn that was my turn-around point.  When I got to the barn (actually just short of there as night was getting more serious), I turned and faced the mountains - well, significant hills - that make a wall at the end of this particular road, about two miles distant.

It had rained during the day and as dusk gathered there were pools and tatters of mist in half a dozen places on the dark green hillsides. Mists also swirled around the hilltops.  I hadn't noticed the mists til just that moment.  They were very beautiful and a lovely surprise.

The Japanese have a word for this - my kids give me grief about the fact that I say this, "The Japanese have a word..." every time I see such mists.  I can't remember their word. I will look it up later.

I listen to music while I walk.  I can't remember what was on, Squeeze, I think, when a jogger and her giant white dog came up behind me. I was picking another apple at that moment, thinking fine thoughts of our misty hills and trying to remember the Japanese word, when the dog woofed. Having been caught picking an apple (they are wild, but still) I started. I took a bite and, finding it corrupted, threw it out and had no courage to pick another with a witness.

The jogger was a fellow fattie, though much younger than me. She gave me a kind, rather embarrassed smile as she wobbled by.  The dog - who hadn't scared me a bit really, he was clearly a gentle giant - was on a leash. As they passed, the dog kept looking back at me, slowing his owner.

After the jogger had gotten about twenty yards ahead of me, the dog just sat down in the middle of the road as if to say. "I've had enough of this f---ery. Why aren't we on the couch where we belong? I want to stay with that apple picking broad."  The jogger, embarrassed, patted the dog's head. She then gave him a stiff pull on the leash and started jogging again. He was defeated and trotted along behind her like a furry ball and chain.

To her credit, the runner kept at it til she was out of sight. It was uphill so I was impressed.  No doubt she waited to go jogging until the road was likely clear of observers and, then, damn, there I was.

I walked past the old barn that comes up just before our dirt road. It is weathered and brown but has a shiny new tin roof.  It is a barn for a Vermont Life photo shoot.  I felt I cut a romantic figure, walking past it with my bunch of wild flowers in my hand.

I put the flowers in the press as soon as I got back into our dining room. I felt sort of bad about pressing them - something so 'pit and the pendulum' about tightening the screws.  I'll take a picture when they're done in two weeks. I will want to remember this.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Francis Bacon is Calling Me Out

The Original Baconator

Portrait of Francis Bacon, by Frans Pourbus(1617)

"Doth any man doubt that, if there were taken out of men’s minds vain opinions, flattering hopes, false valuations, imaginations as one would, and the like, but it would leave the minds of a number of men poor shrunken things full of melancholy and indisposition, unpleasing to themselves?"

- Francis Bacon in his essay, "Of Truth."

I came across this tidbit in a New Yorker article recently and stopped to copy it out. 

Francis, how did you get so smart? ouch. Is that my mind shrinking?

Friday, July 31, 2015

Ron Howard, Paul Giamatti, and My Dad

What do they have in common?

Well, Ron Howard was one of the producers of National Geographic's "Breakthroughs," coming to the National Geographic channel in November.  Paul G. is one of the directors.  Bret Ratner is directing the episode featuring my Dad, John Schenck, (who, it must also be noted, is the dad of my brother and sister as well) will be featured in one of the six episodes for his work as a pioneering scientist in MRI.

We've always been proud of Dad, of course. But now he's going to be on a fancy TV show and, well, let me tell you, let's talk about reflected glory. Kidding (sort of).  Actually, he's a got a great life story of dairy farm boy to the heights of science (not sure if they're telling any of that) and his work has probably made a difference in your life. You'll find out all about it this fall.

Here's the trailer.  There are just a couple of pictures in it of my dad (one shot of a silent guy in tie, another of a guy looking at a big brain) but if tune in this fall you'll see a lot more. I daresay the other scientists featured might also be kind of good at what they do.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Stanchion Workstation: Coming Soon?

Designers Tout Benefits of Employee “Stanchions”

Employers Agree

Space saving, production enhancing
Office workers may soon find a piece of equipment standard in dairy barns adapted for human use and incorporated into their own workspaces.

The designers responsible for the widely-used “open office environment,” which features low-walled cubicles arranged in “pods,” have designed an even more space-saving and employee-production-enhancing office model.

“Square footage comes at a premium in today’s office buildings,” said Gerhard Voldemort of Germany’s VolksBüroWerks. “Phones and computers are much smaller now. It’s time for the desktop to be re imagined. It should be much more compact.  A surface no wider than the average person’s width, calculated with arms akimbo, is more than adequate. Also, these new workstations can be arranged in simple, straight lines. We estimate that this new configuration will quadruple the number of employees that can be accommodated with no addition of floor space.”

Distraction Reduction Measures

The new workstations also include soundproofed side panels and a heads-up computer display that will occupy the entire field of vision of the user.  “Many of us older people remember with fondness the phone booths of yesteryear,” Voldemort said, “an island of privacy in a minimum of space.  That’s what we’re going for with this design: cozy, friendly, and ergonomically correct. It goes without saying, of course, that all our stations will be designed for standing as we now know that sitting equals death.”

One controversial aspect of the VolksBüroWerks design are the optional “focus enhancement” features.  These include foot straps and a “focus halo.” 

“Recent psychological studies have found that gentle pressure about the head increases eye-time on computer screens by as much as 78 percent,” Voldemort said.  He added that the foot straps are not designed, as one critic suggested, ‘to trap employees in these upright caskets’ but to prevent harmful “shifting.” “Shifting weight from foot to foot has a negative impact on focus and proper ergonomics,” Voldemort said, adding that the focus features are “a perfectly natural, non-chemical approach to enhancing employee productivity.”

VolksBüroWerks also recently announced that a nose-operated food pellet and water delivery system will be available as an upgrade on the stanchion units by early in the new year.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Now, In Other News

Hello Earth!

Sorry I've been away so long. When I started this blog in 2006 I'd never heard of Facebook or Twitter. They are the enemy of ye olde blogge.

 I do have a soft spot, however, for the Last House.  In fact, I spent a pleasant day-and-a-half there this week cutting grass.  This is what it looks like in the back fields just now. Those hills in the distance are in Quebec (which is why, for you uninitiated, I call it the Last House.  It's the last one in the USA at that particular point in America).

Nice, no?

It's June!

Though I waste most of my time on social media these days, I have been doing a little writing from time to time.  I'm working on the sequel to that book I've been going on about for years - but it's hard to write a book, and long.

When inspiration strikes for something offering more immediate gratification (like a tweet or a Facebook update) I fold up like a cheap umbrella.  Occasionally, I write something that falls in between 140 characters and a novel.   I started following a funny women's web magazine called The Reductress this spring and one day I gathered up my own ideas for some Reductress stories and pitched the editors.

They didn't like any of them. So much for gratification. 

But when I have let rejection stop me from foisting my writing on the public? Never, that's when.  

So, rather than leave all this comedy gold sealed up in  my Macboook, here it is for your reading enjoyment.  Thanks for coming by. 

Reductress Headlines, DOA, Revived Here:

Local Mom Finally Admits Go Pro Purchase was “Waste of Money” 

“All I’ve managed to get are videos of my own confused face,” says Shelly Jenks, 47. I can’t figure out how the hell to erase them. Neither of my kids can be bothered to learn how to use the damn thing and it has provided zero motivation for them to do fun sports anyway.

UK Researchers Locate Kate Bush Receptor Gene

Yowling cat or shimmering genius? There’s a basis in biology.

Paul of “Paul’s Pickin’s” Announces Restaurant Re-Branding Contest

“Every one knows I didn’t mean that kind of “pickin’s” said Paul Steptoe, a native of Tennessee. Steptoe says his dream of introducing “alt hillbilly” cuisine to Brooklyn has been sidelined by the fact that his restaurant has a gross name.  “You would think the very obviousness of the jokes would make people embarrassed to make them.  But no. I overestimated my potential clientele.”

Amy Poehler Coming to Terms With Fact that Tina Fey’s Book was Just Better Than Hers 

A source close to the pair says this has been a no-go area for months.

BRCA Gene Mutation Holders Enjoying Jolie “Prestige Bump” 

“I’m not saying I’m actually related to Angelina Jolie, said local woman and BRCA gene support group founder Lana Joseph, “but we do have the same gene mutation, and the same eyebrows, so who knows?“

[Lest you think that last one is just in terrible taste I have the BRCA2 mutation myself and I'm OK with a BRCA joke, obvy.]

Here's another Last House picture as a reward for reading to the bottom.

Maisy likes it there too

Monday, March 09, 2015

On My Way to the University Library...

True story...  (UVM = University of Vermont).

Monday, February 23, 2015

I Also Like Neil Diamond and Filet o'Fish Sandwiches

The new couch has arrived.

We're one step closer to living like the people on that space ship in Wall-E:


What can I say?  If cupholders and power-reclining home theater seating is wrong, I don't want to be right.