Tuesday, August 30, 2011


yeah, my house is fine, and my road is fine.

my town roads are also fine. the water is going down.

one town south of me it's a different story; school can't start until next week, because they have no way to run the busses.

the thing about vermont, in case you don't know our geography, is that we are a small state with a mountain range running right down the center of it. our border with new hampshire is a river, and our border with new york is a big honkin' lake.

in order to get from one side of the state to the other, you have to go through the mountain passes. mountain passes are where the floodwater runs.

so along the winooski river (which goes through my town) there was a lot of flooding, but the winooski is wide and pretty close to sea level.

the deerfield river, on the other hand, goes through the mountains and after two weeks of rain when all of a sudden one afternoon the sky opens up and pours fourteen inches of rain into already filled catchments and saturated ground, what happens is that all that water simply flows downhill.

it takes everything in its path with it.

many of our precious historic covered bridges are now simply gone. many of our picturesque towns are destroyed.

tonight we hope to have access to what we're calling "the thirteen isolated communities"; these are towns that since sunday have had no land access at all and have had to have food and water and medical needs carried by helicopter. and you have to understand that there are a LOT of towns where there isn't cell reception. they're just too far into mountain hollows, so when the water came crashing in, a lot of those people had no way to communicate with the outside world. one town not too far from my house was so cut off that yesterday afternoon they sent out a party ON FOOT to bring back water to drink.

when we say we're bringing access to the isolated communities, that means there will be an ATV trail. car travel for some of those towns may be a LONG time coming.

tonight one of the most popular radio shows in the state is one where you can call up and tell people how to get out of towns to places where you can find electricity and hospitals. apparently if you have a couple of hours to burn you can get from dover into brattleboro.

let's be clear here: when there used to be a road that went through, you might go into brattleboro from dover to get a pizza. i know i did.

but route four is GONE in a lot of places, and so is route nine. in some paces they're talking about evacuating people but not bringing them back, because they say it may be years before some of those back those roads are repaired, if ever.

right now as it stands they say the best way to get from any point on the east side of vermont to any point on the west side of vermont is to go down and take the mass pike.  i'm not kidding about this.

CVPS, the largest utility serving that area, says they can't repair the lines that went down, because the land they were on is simply not there anymore. those towns are not getting power until the utility comes in and build new lines from scratch.

there's no water in woodstock. they have a line of porta-potties on main street.

to the good, power crews from as far as texas are working around the clock. road crews from northern towns where there was no damage are going down with their dump trucks. google has been working with the state today to put together some kind of map project so people can see which roads are passable. people with chainsaws are just going out and clearing paths. ATV riders are going into isolated towns by way of snowmobile trails to bring water and supplies. hotels and campgrounds are taking in people for free.

small towns are still small towns, and you may not know your neighbor's name, but he'll still come the couple of miles from his house and clear the road with his chainsaw so you can get out.

Monday, August 29, 2011

disaster area

for a while i thought it best to go silent; there was a thing about some low-grade stalking and the biggest hatwipe in the world who is, still apparently, the biggest hatwipe in the world.

and i was playing glitch. i play it a lot these days when it's open, and when it's closed i flail about waiting for it to open. it's still in beta, and i'm playing it real hard because i'm thinking about laying out the cash to be a subscriber which i would want to do if it was going to hold my interest for a whole year, so i'm playing it AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE to see if it will keep me interested.

since i am currently dreaming about it, it appears to be keeping me interested.

and of course i'm also in my kitchen making delightful things to eat. this week i made more roasted tomato soup and some really swell white bean and eggplant soup, and there's a really, really long list that i won't trouble you with because what i really want to talk about is the storm.

did you notice the storm?

i did.

from where i was sitting it appeared to be simply very dramatic weather, but i'm listening to the news today and national news is using phrases like "the little state of vermont was hardest hit".

at my house, i just battened down the hatches and monitored the power outages across the state. there were a LOT of them. and an "outage" simply refers to a point at which the lines have gone down, so that might be one household, or like yesterday afternoon in the islands, 1700 households. at one point there were over 13,000 outages in windham county alone.

my power flickered off for a few minutes at about a quarter to one, and when it came back on i could see according to the outage reports that 43 households in my town had gone out.

as of this writing there are still no plans to restore power to those households. and interesting thing to note is that some power was restored a couple of miles away a little after that, and i kind of expected there to be some work on it then, but today since it's all sunny and bright i thought i should go out and get some exercise and assumed that the trails would be too wet for mountain biking, so i decided to go play disc golf.

it may seem like a non-sequitur, but that's how i discovered exactly where the power lines went down and why they're not getting repaired any time soon.

first of all, i don't carry flood insurance because i live way the heck up here on a mountain a mile from a good stream that drains to a very large wetland that is itself way up above the river and drains down quite a bit.

in short, if i am flooded out, i have much bigger problems than high water.

but my town is funny-shaped: it is rectangular, but the corner i live in is waaaaay up over the spine of the green mountains and as recently as 15 years ago we had to tuition our kids out to other towns to go to school because it was not possible to get from here into the main part of town in the winter.

it's the power line that comes up here from town that went down. i live close enough to the other side that i can be supplied from any one of three directions and judging from the outages, only one of my routes was (is) still up.

but up in the notch, there's only the one transmission line.

and after i saw where the line went down, i got down to route two and got to see that it would not have been possible for crews to come up my road; the bottom of it was under say, five feet of water. and so was that low-lying neighborhood near the river.

now bear in mind that as i'm seeing this, i still think i'm going to go play golf in waterbury center, which means going through downtown bolton.

uh, not happening. the water may have receded five or six feet, but downtown bolton is still pretty much underwater. the guy from the utility company said you can get through on the road IF you have high clearance AND you don't mind your vehicle smelling like raw sewage after that.

because flooding means sewage.

i did not try to go any further than that. i did not need to see the damage all along route 2.

it turns out that a record number of roads in this state simply aren't there anymore. that's impressive, because this summer we had record floods and a record amount of roads disappeared.

if you'd like to see a LOT more flood damage, try this search.

and i was listening to the news this afternoon and learned that the state was considering FLOODING THE STREETS OF THE STATE CAPITAL yesterday.

why? because of the very real danger of the breaching of dams upstream in residential areas.

our state capital is a big bowl with the river going through it. most of the homes are on high ground. it would have been devastating to the businesses, but if the marshfield and wrightsville dams had breached, it would have been a stunning disaster.

anyway, it's considered to be WORSE flooding than the flood of '27, when dams DID breach, with great loss of life.

we think we "only" lost one man to the flood yesterday; a city employee checking on flood conditions and was washed away.

it's going to be a long time before we can get from here to there easily again.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

waiting for the world to open up

it's thursday, which means the little world at glitch is going to open up sometime today. i am so excited that i have not slept in two nights, which is bad because i don't imagine i will sleep well tonight since i'll probably be up late playing the game.

i like it that much.

meanwhile, i am trying to win at tinyhack, which isn't going so well. i have found all the objects i need to find AND i have found the secret entrance to the fortress, but so far i am unable to put these things together for a win.

i'm experimenting with this video conversation thingy, but so far i do not know if i like it.

and because i have the tabs open on my desktop i'm having a look at some games that are played in google earth. right now i'm looking at skydiver, but i don't know yet if i like it enough to add to my list. games played in google earth are fascinating to me, though, just because of the real earth imagery. if you go there, please note that it runs in chrome, but not in firefox. i have not tried it in safari or opera, but you KNOW it won't work in IE anything. last week i was on a visualization site and saw a fun notice on a broken graphic on an RSS feed: it said please use a modern browser like chrome, firefox, safari, or opera. if you are viewing this through RSS, please click through and view it in your browser.

here are some odd bits i have laying around:

arounder isn't really state-of-the-art virtual touring like this, but it will give you some pretty nice panoramic photos of some interesting international locations.

captchas for idiots just makes me laugh; would such a thing were possible!

here's and interesting chart about nutrition and cravings. i am not in a position to judge its factualness (factualness? is that even a word? it is now.), but it's worth looking at.

and finally, here's a comic from xkcd:

last night i rode a good race. yesterday i made borscht, vegetable stock, zucchini brownies, and i prepped a couple of things i'll make later. i also packaged the cubes of frozen tapenade for later use.

today it will be more soup, a roasted beet risotto, and probably something else delightful. and this afternoon the fish i'm curing will be ready to rinse and package.

that's it for me, i guess.

i have to go check if the world is open yet.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

how can i get more traffic for my blog?

the real question here is "why do you want more traffic for your blog?"

are you a business and think of your blog as a way to draw in consumers?
do you have dreams of internet fame?
do you expect to make real money from your blog and be able to retire?
do you think it's going to get you that book/record deal you want?
do you collect followers on your blog just like you collect facebook "friends" and twitter followers?

i read a lot of blogs. and i see a lot of blogs that seem to be more about driving traffic than anything else. so here's my advice:

  • join networks. you don't really care if people are reading you, do you? you just want those all important clicks and backlinks. so join as many networks as you can. bloggers there who aren't reading your blog will all be part of that network and they'll all follow you in return for following them.
  • go to conferences. same thing. spend a lot of time and money to go to meet thousands of people who don't really want to read anyone else's blog, but they want to have you follow theirs.
  • invent blogging challenges. make some little blogging meme and get lots of bloggers to do it too, and hopefully they will give you a link. awesome. i LOVE to read dozens of nearly identical blogs every day when people take up cookie-cutter challenges.
  • participate in a challenge. "august vacation!" "pic-a-day". "seven things about yourself". then you can all link to each other and see who's doing it, too. it's like death to the reader, but you'll have links.
  • giveaways! give stuff away to people who leave comments! there. THAT will get tons of people to comment. and of course people who comment just to get a prize will stick aroudn and be a real reader, won't they? well, at least you'll have a backlink.
  • make tons of comments on blogs. it doesn't matter if it has anything to do with the post, or if you're part of an actual conversation. you will have a backlink. and of course your comment will be so interesting that tons of people will follow your blog as soon as they see it.
  • give out blog awards! make a little graphic that people can put on their page to tell the world how proud they are that you awarded them the "flowers and sunshine" blogging award even though they write about war atrocities. of course your award will have lots of little rules in it, including a mention and a backlink. and won't you feel special when they display your award right up there with the 56,000 other awards they received from people who want backlinks?
  • ask questions. no matter what your blog entry is about, be sure to end with a question so that your readers will want to make lots of comments. it works because people love to talk about themselves. you know they do. you have a blog, right? so you talk about yourself and then ask a meaningless question so that other people will talk about themselves and give you their traffic.
  • follow, follow, follow! follow dozens -no, hundreds of blogs. you don't have to read them. just follow them publicly and the people who write them will be polite and follow you back.

 oh. were you just interesting in writing an interesting blog? and you don't care about traffic?

well then. it's easy. write what you want, when you want to. show pictures or tell stories or whatever.  if you are blogging for a business, connect to your customers by giving them content that will interest them. if you sell barbecue accessories, blog about recipes and gardening and how to use a grill really well, but ALSO tell about whatever interests you. banjo music?

give people a reason to read you. provide a service that's not about making a sale.

on average i read about 400 blogs every day.

every. single. day.

some of them are aggregators. some of them give original content. there are professionals and average joes.

here are two of my favorites:

gurney journey this is the blog of a working artist/illustrator. he writes about his work, other people's work, and whatever happens to interest him at the moment. he has (i think) a large following, but he's about content, not followers. he post on average twice a day, and it is always interesting.

janette kok is a quiet little christian lady living a quiet little christian life in the pacific northwest. she writes on average once a day and talks about what she's reading and what's in her garden. it maybe doesn't sound like a must-read to you, but i read her every day and when i'm too tired or fed up to read a lot of the other blogs i read daily, i am always happy to read hers. she does not care one bit about followers or links or comments.

meanwhile, back at the farm, i am eagerly awaiting the opening of the glitch world tomorrow. and i am making lots of precious little recipes. i'm also signing up for various new internet services for communication and data visualization, just to try them out. i'll let you know if i get anything good.

oh! by-the-way- last night for dinner i made this casserole before i went out for my run and then baked it after. it's good.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

little things

today's little chore was  updating the slideshow that plays on my blog page. i know, you probably read it in RSS, but there's a slideshow if you want to see it.

so that took a little time, going through my bazillions of photos and adding the ones that seemed worth it, and taking out some old ones i wasn't so happy with anymore. then of course the feed was broken, so i had to fix that.

in other little internet news, yesterday i added two new designs to my zazzle store. i took a picture of some flowers from cr's garden and she said it was like us smiling in the sunshine, so i made this:

then i was thinking that if i could make that into a template, it would make a nice little greeting card or mug or something, so no anyone who wants one can put their own photographs into the flowers and that's how i spent my morning yesterday.

flower garden mug
flower garden by flask_ehrlenmeyer
you and me, sunshine card
you and me, sunshine by flask_ehrlenmeyer
make a card online at zazzle 

so then i went for a mountain bike ride and came home and made the soup du jour. it's almost as good as yesterday's soup. i think now i'm going to go make brownies.

Monday, August 08, 2011

music, language, and games

gonna close some more tabs.

why? because i have a backlog of things i need to open up and play with so i can either show you or not.

music! weird music! weird AWESOME music!

first, i'd like to introduce you (have you met?) to the Princeton Laptop Orchestra, or PLOrk, as it is affectionately called. their webpage is kinda dry, but there's a nice little piece about them in the NPR archive, and one of their photo sets works like a gallery and is interesting. they don't look like they're really set up for hotlinking, but if you're looking at those pictures, please notice the exit sign in the auditorium. ooooh. talk nerdy to me.

and then there's the vegetable orchestra. not only is this a concept that i am in love with, but their website is rich with images and words and sound samples, so you should go. then, if you're like me, you will buy their album "onionoise"and you will look for the nearest venue and wait until you can go there and see them live. mmmm, soup.

(and speaking of soup, here is a really good soup i made yesterday. i played fast and loose with the recipe, both changing the quantity of things in it and adding potatoes to the roast, but it is  whoa-nellie-i-can't-talk-to-you-now-i'm-eating-soup! good.)

soup? how did we get there? is it non-sequitur hour? were you READING the website, or did you just skim through, hmmm?

ok, NOW we're just going to jump topics, but it's ok; it still involves sound files. if you've known me for more than ten minutes, you know i'm a big language fan. so naturally i was interested to hear the story of the three little pigs as told in new guinea pidgin, which is a creole.

for a neat look at the evolution of alphabets, look here.

a lot of the world speaks english, though. me, i'm learning OLD english (more accurately west saxon literary dialect), but one of the things that interests me in the world of english speakers is accent. so it's super cool that there's a game you can play to try to guess where a person is from based on his or her accent when reading a passage in english. it's harder than i thought it would be at the outset, because while me ear can distinguish the accent of a native german speaker, i'm not good enough to know if it's swiss german. and what if the speaker is, say a native french speaker, but was taught english by australians? oh, man. it gets complex... 

anyway, you can play can you guess where my accent is from?

and then as long as you're playing games, you might as well play this clever little old-school favicon-sized game: tinyhack.

or maybe you just want to play with movement and sound: balldroppings. it's s chrome experiment, but it seems to work just fine in firefox.

and if you like your games more cerebral, there's a whole playground here.

and just for good measure, last night i heard about this race: run for your lives! ha. that's funny.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

girl talk

i'm cleaning off my desk so i can close my tabs and now that i can use that handy tool i told you about yesterday to have any tab from any of my machines open, it's a lot easier for me to have a look at the stuff i want to tell you about and then also have it handy for the machine i write from.

it's especially important since the keyboard on my laptop needs replacing and i no longer have use of the spacebar, or the b, n, ? and up arrow.

a while ago the band girl talk came out with an album called all day, which you can download in its entirety for free. the interesting thing is that there's a real-time list (with video) of all the samples used in the album. and even if it's not your style (it's not mine) it is a fascinating project and what the heck; it's free.

so i watched that in its entirety yesterday and although it's not going on my favorites playlist, it sure was interesting to see how the samples were used and also how the list was compiled. i am a sucker for a beautiful graphical representation.

i also want to tell you about a privacy tool i discovered and downloaded this week. it is also free and so far i am happy with how it works. the idea is that companies that have those like buttons are tracking you whether or not you are logged into their services. all you have to do is be on a page that has those buttons and you are being tracked, even if you have cookies disabled.

and you can get add-ons that disable the buttons entirely, but what if you want to use them sometimes and not be tracked everywhere else? so this thing (and so far i'm pretty happy with my test of it on both of my machines) simply blocks the tracking unless you choose to interact with the button on the site. you can manage your permissions and grant and ungrant as you please, which makes me happy.

you can find that here: share me not.

and appropos of nothing, i want to tell you about this because i think it's screamingly funny:

The Birthday Clown Consortium Price Guide.

there. i'm done for now. it's off to the kitchen with me. i don't know yet what i'm going to make, but there will be a few things and i bet they'll be good.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

organizing at the end of the world

the end of the world came yesterday.

did you notice? no, you probably did not, unless you play glitch. the thing about the beta testing is that they roll out a version of the game and the testers play it until the test ends and then they start over in the new test version.

since i only started playing wednesday, i was not aware that at the end of the test, there's a giant End Of The World Party. but for a game that i only started playing wednesday, it sure has a hold of me. i am marking the days until the new version launches, and i know from the start that we'll only play for a week and then THAT world will end.

later on, and soon we hope, they will launch the game for real and we can just play. my initial assessment of it is that it's AWESOME.

it is smart and funny and graphically interesting and has a decent soundtrack. the environments and the storyline are imaginative and quirky. and here's the thing i REALLY like: it is cooperative in nature, rather than competitive. in order to advance in the game, you have to work and play well with others.

and you have to be able to make a good sammich.

while i'm casting about blankly for the startup of the new version on or around august 11, i have the usual projects, which includes SOMEHOW organizing and consolidating the bookmarks from both of my machines and all of my browsers, a thing which i was beginning to think impossible until this morning i found an add-on that works across platforms and across browsers and now my machines have all the same bookmarks and open tabs, or they CAN have the same open tabs or not, because it's configurable.


you can find that here.

Thursday, August 04, 2011


yesterday and today i played a game.

apparently it's addictive; i played it through several mealtimes and one bedtime, only leaving the house to race bicycles and play disc golf with cr.

it's still in beta, so not everyone can get in, but go ahead, if you dare: glitch

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

sleeping: an equipment guide

you probably don't know how to pack for going to bed.

what's that you say? you just crawl in there and sleep? you're not PREPARED?

you need my advice.

i am changing my sheets today. i say it in the present tense because right now i only have one set of sheets that i really like and that fit my mattress well, so in order to clean them it's a commitment to see the process through all the way.

i confess that i have not changed them since those two days it was really hot because it kind of seemed pointless to put fresh sheets on the bed if it was only going to be another hot night, but i have to draw the line somewhere.

it's not ENTIRLEY as slovenly as it sounds, because i habitually sleep in long-sleeved shirts and athletic tights and i ALWAYS wear socks, so there's not a lot of actual skin contact with the sheets, but still. there are limits.

uh, anyway, when you take the sheets off the bed, you find out what's really under that comforter.

i used to need a completely empty bed, with nothing in it and the sheets all needed to line up square and i wish i could tell you i have never gotten out of bed in the night to remake the bed because the sheets were crooked.

so while my life now may not represent progress in the strict sense, it does represent movement.

sleeping is dangerous business. last thursday on my way out of bed i managed to hit my head so forcefully on a nearby shelf that i managed to punch a half-inch triangular cut in my scalp but didn't notice the matted blood until i took my hat off at lunchtime.

apparently there's a whole suite of things you need in order to sleep. here's my list:

in the bed:
  • four pillows. it's important that if you roll over, you are fully supported.
  • two phones. you can't be bothered to roll far enough to pick one up if it rings. one functions as an alarm clock, too.
  • camera. you usually need to take pictures during the night. (see above, phone as alarm clock)
  • t shirt. you can't drool on the pillows, can you?
  • sweater that does not belong to you. this is a sufficiently grown-up looking susbstitute for that stuffed dog you stopped sleeping with when you were nine because it was falling apart but you still have it in your closet.
  • large chunk of rose quartz. handy in an emergency. you know.
  • hat. either your head is cold, or the room is not dark enough.
  • ipod and headphones. duh. don't use the good headphones; they only get tangled.
  • pretzels and pretzel fragments. ok, this isn't strictly intentional, but if you eat in your sleep, you're bound to lose some of it in the bed, ambien walrus.

not actually in the bed, but within reach without rolling over:

  • large bag of pretzels.
  • assorted other snacks.  you sleep better if you don't have to go so far to get snacks. if you have ever woken up in the driveway on your way to get something to eat, you know this is important.
  • two bottles of water.
  • spare ipod. emergency podcasts in case of failure.
furthermore, before you go to sleep you should plan your next day's activities and make sure you are wearing socks appropriate to that activity.  this means if it is saturday night, you should be wearing your bright red or florescent yellow socks, or at the very least your black and pink flamingo socks because that's what you should wear to church,  ESPECIALLY if you are in front of the congregation for any part of the service. it also means that if tomorrow is canada day, you are wearing your maple leaf socks.

details are important. if you forget to put on the right socks at bedtime, you will only have to get up and change them as soon as your error is discovered.

save yourself time and energy. be prepared.

i know i have helped you.

Monday, August 01, 2011

this is what it's like

yesterday i got up on a sunny day feeling GREAT and after church my chicken guy's wife gave me not one but TWO dozen boxes of eggs which means i have enough eggs to do some of the other things i was maybe going to go with them, but was kind of saving them out for things i HAVE to use them on...

but anyway, i was going to go to the grocery store to do my shopping after church and now i don't quite know what to do because it's warm out and now if i leave the eggs in the car i have to leave them in the cooler, but i always put my cold things in the cooler when i shop and i hadn't brought an extra because i wasn't counting on the eggs and now i don't know what to do so i start to go home and then i turn around and go back because i'll just figure it out, whatever, but then i'm crying.

really, really crying. and so i pull off into the nearest parking lot which is the town office (closed because it's sunday) and it's the kind of crying that short circuits something in my brain and i just start barking out words or parts of words and i know they're the beginnings to sentences i'm trying to say but after a while they're meaningless tics and i can't go forward with other thoughts and i can't make them stop and at this point since i am so close to the police station i'm afraid an officer will come and talk to me and i won't be able to do anything but bark and yip and twitch and up until this point it's just paranoia

-and i'll interrupt here to tell you that while i am always willing to consider that it's just paranoia, i HAVE been hunted by the police and if you have that reality to toss into your paranoid delusion, that is just not a good mix.

so anyway, i'm afraid the police will come and i'll be unintelligible and the next thing i know i'll be cuffed and transported when all i need really is to calm down and rest a little, maybe, or at any rate we all know that's how it goes since if there's a drug out there that works, i'm allergic to it.

yeah. so. i'm sitting there in my car crying and i'm thinking that i'm maybe not in a safe position when this police cruiser goes by me a little and then turns around with his lights on. he goes by me, but i go into panic overdrive. what follows is the whole of the williston fire department and rescue squad resopnding to a call somewhere down the road, but all the siren and lights are not making me feel any better.

so i think: i have to get out of here.

and i head out, back toward the church, on foot, because i think maybe i shouldn't drive. i think i will be safe at the church.

but it's locked up and although i know how to use the key box it's at least cool on the lawn and what i really want is just to stop crying and go home and have a nap or something and i try to cal my mom who can figure that i'm in bad shape, but can't figure out the barks and yips and i try to call cr who can sometimes calm them and in the end finally i get home somehow and watch some youtube videos until i feel better, and then since i'm in a bad mood, the only thing i can think of to cheer me up is to make some exquisite little dishes.

so i made a lovely tomato-basil sorbet and a balsamic reduction and a roasted garlic pasta salad that is so good you'd sell your grandmother for a second taste.

and now because i have a splitting headache, i'm going to go make popovers.

i've never made popovers.

it should be fun.


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