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May 30, 2006

Memorial Day

Yesterday I had no graves to visit, although we recently unearthed some family documents that indicate approximately where my uncle is buried in France. (He was killed in action near the end of World War II. Um, yes, that was before I was born. Thanks for asking.) I wish to visit his grave on some future Memorial Day.

Hawaiian shirt, steel guitar. Absolutely no connection, I swear.

We reconnected with some old friends last year who have hosted an annual Memorial Day party/jam session for literally decades. The last one I attended was almost twenty years ago, so I was looking forward to renewing a lot of acquaintances, hearing some good music, and, of course, consuming mass quantities. I wasn't there five minutes when the call went out from the “bandstand” (their patio) for a drummer. I slouched lower in my chair, but clearly there was no one else qualified in the house. I ended up playing most of the next three hours. Criminy. And I thought drummers were a dime a dozen. Turns out it’s singers who are a dime a dozen; I think there were seven.

Although I was having fun playing, the smell of the grill was driving me crazy, and I finally found a chance to grab a bite. There was an awesome variety of food—and lots of it. The invitation requested that all “bring a dish that will feed 10 people.” If you do the math, it’s clear that there would be quite a surplus. We took home not only about half of what we brought with us, but also a tray of marinated chicken. Here I thought I was working for peanuts, but I’ll take chicken anytime. All in all, it was a great day. I did see a lot of old friends... and their children... and their grandchildren. Yikes.

It was dark when we got home and I, in the warm peacefulness of the evening, shared a contemplative moment with the stars as I furled the flag.


it's like you were dressed to play in the band. did the two on guitars not get the memo?

Albert, apparently they didn’t. It was like herding cats. First wardrobe offense gets a warning, but fines and other sanctions get pretty steep after that. We were quite the motley crüe in our random outfits.

Tony, you look like you were having a great time. I wish I could play an instrument well enough to participate in a jam session. I, of course, would be one of the people volunteering to sing. Not very well, mind you, but I'd do it anyway. Hmm, maybe you could have used dancers, sort of the like the Beach Boys have (although I think that's to distract people from their aging reality). Anyway, looks like fun.

And I got the rare opportunity to hear and watch you play, which was fun for me. Sipping a festive beverage, munching on picnic food, and watching the session unfold is a bit better than helping you load the drums into the car on a Saturday night before you drive off in your tux for a private-party gig. I'm glad you brought the camera!

May 29, 2006

Impress Her with Your Volume

Lots to blog about this weekend in the It’s a Wonderful Life department, but not much time to write about it. Three-day weekend, beautiful weather, getting to see old friends, lots of food...

Anne brought home a jar of honey from a local hive on Saturday that she witnessed being made. The wooden frames supporting the honeycomb are placed inside a machine like a giant salad spinner and centrifugal force extracts the honey. We were looking for something to do with this fresh honey so last night while we were making a vat of applesauce (our contribution to today’s picnic), I whipped up a batch of waffle batter. Just to explain, I like yeast waffles best, which have to be made the night before (recipe here). I just followed the recipe as I usually do, but this batch made the lightest and crispiest waffles we’ve ever had. Anne was impressed, hence her suggestion of the spammy post title.

Hope you’re having a great weekend with your honey, too.


Sounds like it was a great weekend - and am glad you had a honey-filled weekend!

Would the yeast waffle recipe work as pancakes too? I've always wondered that as I don't have a wafflemaker? It seems conceptually that it might.

Ellen, it probably would work; they’re very similar. Compared to the best pancake recipe I’ve ever tried (Better Blueberry Pancakes in July/August 2003 Cooks Illustrated), the waffle recipe uses about twice as much butter, an extra egg, and yeast instead of baking powder. Might be the best pancakes ever!

May 27, 2006

Amtrak Outage [nanoblog]

Add another service to those that deserve a Temporarily In Service sign: Amtrak. A large outage on the Amtrak system affected part of SEPTA’s system as well and hence me. I was stuck on a train for a mere 20 minutes and eventually was able to get home and drive to work. I consider myself very lucky. A real, red-blooded blogger would have written this post on the train in the heat of the moment, or better still, posted live from the train as Rick Klau did. Clearly I’m more comfortable with the Wordsworthian tack of “emotion recollected in tranquility.” Even at the time I wasn’t too upset, and now two days later, all I can muster is a heavy sigh. This time at least, it wasn’t SEPTA’s fault.


Sorry to hear that. It's remarkable that Amtrak is still running given the shortchange it's been given under the current government.

May 25, 2006 is taking a lunch break

Yeah, you would think that “out to lunch” is where I’ve been by the amount I’ve posted in the last week (exactly nil), but that message should also be familiar to anyone trying to visit on a regular basis. As a WordPress noob, I’ve spent a lot of time on the site over the last couple weeks and am amazed at how often the site is down. Otherwise, I don’t have much to complain about. The templates are easy to edit, there’s abundant documentation, and an active support forum. No wonder it’s the best-selling blog software that money can’t buy.

May 18, 2006

My Latest Brew Ha-Ha

Most mornings, I’m grateful for my autonomic nervous system; it’s the only thing keeping me alive before I’ve had my morning coffee. I’m just not capable of coherent voluntary action before that first cup. That includes making the coffee. Introducing the Matrix of Failure, which illustrates all the ways I’ve screwed up making that first pot of the day.

CoffeeNo coffee
Water Coffee goodness! Been there.
No waterDone that.OK, I never did this. Yet.

Time to add a new dimension to the matrix: carafe! This morning I added the coffee and the water, but left the carafe on the counter. A flood was averted by the little valve in the basket, which is designed to prevent such a catastrophe. It worked.

May 17, 2006

Hot for Commencement Speaker

Jodie Foster delivered the commencement speech at Penn (my alma mater) on Monday. Kyle Cassidy took a great shot of her and recalled an adolescent crush—surpassed only by his crush on Kristy McNichol. I admit Kristy was my main reason for watching Family, which was otherwise ponderous, but I didn’t have a crush on her (or Jodie Foster for that matter).

I never had a crush on Hillary Clinton either, who was commencement speaker at my graduation. (Ally Sheedy is a different story, but I’m over her.) Funny thing about Hillary’s speech was I didn’t hear a word she said. Down on the field where I was sitting, her voice arrived from widely-separated speakers at slightly different times. It was plenty loud but the overlapping echoes rendered it utterly unintelligible. Maybe no one heard Jodie Foster’s speech either...

May 16, 2006

Primary Day [nanoblog]

I guess some people have excuses for not voting, but I sure don’t. The polling place is literally on my way to work, and it was such a beautiful day (amend that to say “It wasn't raining”), and it only takes a minute. So I did.

May 15, 2006

Rainbow Connection [nanoblog]

I was in a colleague’s office on a conference call late this afternoon. I got tired staring at the phone and let my eyes wander to the landscape outside. I was stunned to see the biggest, brightest rainbow I have ever seen. It lasted at least ten minutes and then took another ten to fade away. The memory of it still lingers vividly. I’m taking it as a good omen, although of what I’m not sure. Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket...

May 9, 2006

Under Dogwood

I was out of town until Sunday afternoon and was very sorry to have missed Zoe Strauss’ show, although Albert covered it well. Between that and last week’s trip to Centralia, photography briefly claimed center stage in my life. For a couple of hours, I photographed dogwood flowers. My mission was to capture the feeling of sitting in the shade of a large tree in full bloom under a blue sky. 60-odd snaps later, I feel I learned something and came away with one satisfying picture—although it doesn’t capture the feeling.

I quickly learned that shooting the whole tree just didn’t work, at least not for any reasonable enlargement. Then I tried isolating a section of the canopy:

Dogwood flowers 1

[1] A small section of the dogwood canopy.

I couldn’t get that to work, so I got a stepladder and decided to move in closer.

Dogwood flowers 2

[2] This is a cluttered mess. The flowers merge with background.

Dogwood flowers 3

[3] From this angle, the flowers are more distinct. Better, I think, but not much of a composition.

There was a breeze, so I slowed down the shutter to try and capture the effect.

Dogwood flowers 4

[4] Whoa! I got more blur than I bargained for.

Dogwood flowers 5

[5] That’s better, but I’m getting distracted from my quest. Must, ahem, focus.

Instead of trying to include a lot of flowers, I decided it would be more effective to show only a few.

Dogwood flowers 6

[6] A small group of flowers, here set against a blurry background.

Dogwood flowers 7

[7] Here is the same group of flowers, but a slight movement of the camera puts them in front of the quieter background of the canopy of flowers.

Dogwood flowers 8

[8] Instead of a smooth blur in the background, I started to want something bolder, something that included other parts of the tree if possible, added to the composition, and complemented but didn't compete with the flowers. Here, the trunk takes up space between groups of flowers.

Dogwood flowers 9

[9] A variation on the same idea. I like this one the best of all of them. It looks less self-consciously “composed” to me.

May 4, 2006

Sesame Mucho

While some folks have posted links to their favorite Sesame Street videos hosted on YouTube, maybe not everyone knows they’re there. You can search YouTube, of course, but J.D. Roth saved you the trouble by posting a really big list of videos fully annotated for your convenience (via BeatnikPad: Bagatelle). Go ahead. You know you want to go. I’ll wait for you.

*drums fingers*

Oh, well. I see I’ll be talking to myself from here on out. I was in high school when Sesame Street debuted, and I clearly remember heading home after school to watch it at 4:00 PM almost every day. At that age, I had already mastered the alphabet and integers, and, under the iron-fisted tutelage of the Sisters of Saint Joseph (“Corporal Punishment reporting for duty!”), I had even developed the ability to write complete sentences (and then diagram them!). I watched Sesame Street purely for entertainment—and entertaining it was. The videos brought back a lot of memories, and in case you’re wondering, my knuckles have healed nicely, thank you.


I survived Catholic School too (Sisters of "Mercy", man was that a misnomer, not that geekgirl got into trouble much), and Sesame Street is good therapy for it

May 3, 2006

Bedtime [nanoblog]

Crews chose last night to resume their ongoing project of enlarging the potholes and roughening the pavement of the “helix,” a stretch of washboard pavement linking the New Jersey Turnpike to the Lincoln Tunnel. That delayed my departure from New York over an hour as all traffic was diverted through Hoboken. I only got about three hours’ sleep, so I’m heading to bed early with a good book: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I started this book a while ago and inexplicably put it down. The bookmark is on page 264, but I don’t remember a word of it, so I’m planning to start over. I wonder how far I’ll get before I... before I... fall... uh... asleep. ZZZzzzzzzzzz.

“Blogs That Link Here” 410 [nanoblog]

I just noticed that my home page doesn’t finish loading thanks to some remote JavaScript hosted at, which seems to be down. The snippet is gone now; mere cat apologizes for the inconvenience. For a while there, Technorati was pretty snappy and useful, but last month it stopped indexing my posts and most searches never finish. Nobody but me cares who links here anyway; I don’t know what I was thinking. By the way, 410 is the HTTP status code for gone as in permanently.