Tuesday, December 31, 2013

new year's resolutions

flask, i hear you say, how can i make better and more effective new year's resolutions and be a better person? what do you recommend?

well, never fear. 

i am here to help.

my advice to you is don't make any.

do not start your new year off by making a list of ways you're not living up to your goals and do not give yourself a whole list of self-improvement projects to start and then feel bad about when you backslide.

if you really wanted to take off those extra twenty pounds or exercise more often or read more, you'd have already started the process.

and if you're going to try to do something hard like quit smoking or change careers or clean up your debt problem, you probably want to take your time with that and make plans and maybe have a fallback position and allow for some gradual changes with your big leap.

you don't need the extra stress of an artificially imposed culturally encouraged deadline-of-shame and its accompanying failure cycle.

sure, i've put on a few pounds in the last month or so, but i'm not going to get all bent out of shape about it. i understand that the combination of dark days and weird weather and assorted stresses and injuries have contributed to a changed exercise pattern and quite frankly i'd prefer to start doing something about it as soon as i notice i'm not progressing in the direction i'd like but also there's the reality that if i don't take it easy and eat well and get a lot of rest this cold that i'm just barely fighting off is going to catch up with me and that will suck worse than carrying those extra pounds a little longer.

getting in shape (insert any personal transformation) is on ongoing process. it's something you do because you're ready and you want to and you leave yourself some room for resting and even backsliding because it's not going to help you to impose artificial timelines on it just because you happened to have been given a new calendar.

i've only ever made one new year's resolution that i've stuck to, and it has been gloriously simple and effective: one year i decided not to make any new year's resolutions anymore, and now when people ask (as they will) how you're doing at keeping this year's resolutions, i'm that smug hatwipe who says i've kept all of mine for years.

you should try it.

it's awesome.

Monday, December 30, 2013

paint it black

here is a picture of my gifts under my family's christmas tree.

for about thirty years i have been wrapping gifts in black paper. the original reason is TOTALLY normal (as normal as it gets over here).

that first year a long time ago i was out shopping and i found some rolls of DARLIN' little gift ribbons and cute little bows that were black with gold lettering that said YET ANOTHER FABULOUS PRESENT and since my uncle had been calling presents fabulous for years, it was sort of a no-brainer. and the ribbons looked REALLY fetching on black paper, so that was that.

they were a hit. a joke and then a tradition were born.

black presents do not mean gloomy presents, though. most years i take the black wrappings and then paint over them. snowflakes, stars, the aurora borealis. one year i pained a little winter scene with a snug little cabin in snowy woods.

ON EVERY GIFT I WRAPPED THAT YEAR. can i tell you how much work that was for wrapping paper?

if i run out of black wrapping paper or if i just don't have any (because some years the style demands it) i wrap gifts in brown grocery bags and spraypaint them black. sometimes i paint the whole thing black, and sometimes i do cute things with masking tape.

either way, it's black spraypaint. this year i was too busy making a penguin box and fortune cookies and hand wrapping precious little cream caramels to paint on the packages, but as long as my gifts are
black, everybody's happy.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

little treats

my family likes food. i like food. i wanted to make some nice little foods i could package and freeze to give my family so they could defrost and eat for lunch or whatever at their convenience.

so this is what i made them:

lentil hand pies - whole wheat crust around roasted sweet potato, lentils and kale, and caramelized onions. eat hot or at room temperature.defrost and heat either in oven or microwave. vegetarian.

macaroni and cheese - creamy mac and cheese made with four kinds of cheese, along with onions. includes dairy.

artichocke barigoule - artichokes in broth with vegetables. sunny and light flavor. eat by itself or serve over fish or pasta or whatever you like.  i like mine over angel hair with grated parmesan cheese. vegan.

risotto style pasta - pasta cooked risotto style with carrots and onions. includes dairy (butter).

wild mushroom risotto with caramelized onions - dark and rich risotto cooked in vegetable broth with four kinds of mushrooms topped with caramelized onions. includes dairy (butter).

apple butter - made from feral apples and vermont cider.

vegan thumbprint cookies - mostly toasted almonds and oats held together with some whole wheat flour. lightly sweetened with maple syrup. nutritious and vegan.

cheese crackers - two flavors of cheese cracker: parmesan and mozzarella, and sharp cheddar. includes dairy.

clementine sherbet - mostly just fresh squeezed clementine juice combined with cream. includes a small amount of gelatin.

hot chocolate ice cream - a dark and rich spiced chocolate ice cream. includes egg yolks.

cream caramels - classics. includes dairy.

honeycomb candy - delicate and crunchy.

for my sister i also cured a half pound of salt lox, and my brother-in-law got a selection of jams.

and for the record, "wild mushroom risotto" means "wild mushroom risotto" and not, as at some restaurants "any kind of mushroom that isn't white button mushrooms", because let's face it, crimini and shiitake are not especially wild.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

building a penguin box

i know penguin things are trendy now, but my sister has been in love with penguins since- i'm sorry, i do not recall a time when she did not love penguins. clearly since her existence on this planet is finite the span of time in which she has loved penguins cannot accurately be described as "forever", but let's just say it is not a passing fad with her.

my mother has been wrapping all her gifts for every holiday in wrapping paper that features penguins for more years than i can count, and now that penguin wrappings are trendy my mom can stock up even though she already has enough penguin wrapping paper to last for ten years or so.

and no, that is not an exaggeration. it would be less alarming if it were an exaggeration.

so anyway, i saw a thing on the interwebs in which a guy made a penguin gift box for his wife and i thought: hey, i could do that.

so i set to work building a penguin box.

pretty early on in the process, though, i realized that unlike that guy's wife, my sister was going to want that penguin box to  open without harming the penguin, because she was going to want to make that puppy a permanent part of her collection, so i had to make it with some kind of door that could be closed and opened and still support the gift inside, which was kind of heavy.

the gift, actually, while perfectly well received, was somewhat anticlimactic to the gift box, which is a risk you take when you spend six hours building a special box to hold the gift because your sister will REALLY like a penguin box.

so here's the slideshow of the box construction.

and it also explains what i was doing on the porch with the black spraypaint.

it does not, however, explain why black spraypaint is a regular part of my christmas, but maybe i will tell you about that later.

Friday, December 27, 2013


last weekend we had an ice storm.

IMG_4634in terms of damage it was a minimal event. there were only -and that's a big "only" ten thousand power outages in my state, and most of them got fixed within a day. up in maine some people are STILL without power and had to go to warming shelters for christmas.

out here it's mostly unpleasant for the trees, many of whom are still falling on a daily basis, because immediately following the two days of freezing rain, we went into deep freeze and we haven't seen temperatures north of 20 since then, so there's been very little melt and while a tree can hang on all bent like that for a while, sometimes it just gives up.

sometimes after a prolonged bending like that, the tree never straightens up, which is kind of how bentwood furniture gets made.

IMG_4635deciduous trees are mostly doing all right (if they're still standing) but the evergreens are having the worst time of it. because they keep their needles all winter, they continue to BREATHE all winter and they breathe through those needles, so being coated in ice interferes with that respiration thing they'd prefer to be doing unimpeded.

IMG_4639it's not like they die if they get iced over winter, but you look sometime at the difference between fir trees that can breathe and aren't weighted down by ice in winter and the fir trees that sit up in hoar frost all winter and you'll notice which are decidedly scrubbier.

it's a hard life, being coated in ice.


Thursday, December 26, 2013


so i was out on a stupidly cold and snowy day looking for a geocache and i heard a thing on the radio about candymaking and they were talking about honeycomb candy, which i looked up when i got home because it sounded like fun.

i was encouraged when i looked it up at home, because recipes for this candy are both on food sites and SCIENCE sites, so that's promising.

because, really, who doesn't love candymaking that involves a molten sugar baking soda volcano?

candy AND 'splosions. best of two worlds.

it's easy, too, if you don't count breaking it up after it cools, because while it's easy to break, it is not so easy to break in a controlled fashion so you get bite-sized pieces on account of it's mostly air and very fragile.

it's fancy-looking when you put it in little baggies to give to people, too.

and it's fun. so when barb came over to do craft projects, i said we ought to make a batch of this stuff for entertainment purposes IF she promised to take the batch with her when she went, because i already had enough of the stuff here at the house and quite frankly more than i can sensibly give away as gifts.

barb likes candy, and barb also likes science-y things. because, well, she's actually a scientist by training and trade and uses a microscope at work and stuff.

when it was time to add the baking soda, barb shot video while i whisked.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

my digital gift to you

here are selections from my christmas album. they are downloadable until 6 january.

prizes and projects

i made (and while barb was here, she helped) fortune cookies.

it's not hard to do, and if like me you have every thought you could write better stuff than what's in the average fortune cookie, you get to have some fun.

in some of the cookies i put proverbs both serious and silly, like "there are two ways to catch a knife." and "there are 10 kinds of people" those who understand binary numbers, and those who don't."

but i also made a special set of them that i'm calling PRIZES and PROJECTS because all the fortunes inside say things like "PROJECT: sing or play a song" or "PRIZE: cream caramels".

it should be fun.

merry christmas

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

little town

lo, how a rose e'er blooming

this one's got a beautiful stereo mix, and i'm going to recommend headphones.

i will leave it open for downloading until 6 january.

i hope you enjoy it.

i'm still wrapping presents.

less of a surprise, still balls.

last year my friend barb came over and we made some little crafty things for our respective christmas tables, including the surprise balls.

they were a very big hit with the whitehaired ladies, which would be the largest demographic at my mom's christmas table.

so i made some more this year.

basically, it's just little toys and stickers and candies rolled up in yards and yards of brightly colored tissue paper. they take ninety-bazillion hours to make and three minutes to unwrap, but it's very festive and it makes the whitehaired ladies laugh so if you ask me it's a good use of my time.

Monday, December 23, 2013

ok, now it's really christmas.

it just isn't christmas without black spraypaint.

no, i am not going to explain that you, not one little bit.

i am just going to tell you that this morning just after sunrise i was on the front porch with a can of black spraypaint.

it's a christmas tradition. other people have mistletoe and ornaments.

i have black spraypaint.

the stink of desperation

i am noticing in these last few days before christmas the proliferation of commercials for perfumes.

aside from the usual message that goes with perfume commercials (smell like this and you will enjoy languid sex with no regard for even the laws of physics), there is a stink of desperation.

this uptick in perfume commercials is aimed at people who REALLY don't know what to get someone for christmas, but want to get something impressive.

you show me a man who gives his wife expensive perfume for every gift-giving occasion and i will show you an old-fashioned ass who has some very set ideas about what women should and should not do and he just can't be arsed to get her something thoughtful that she will like.

granted, some women like scents, but going to "perfume!" all the time just lacks imagination of any kind.

here are the idea i think perfume commercials are trying to convey:

don't know what to get her/him? perfume!

don't have enough time to shop for something? perfume!

afraid you didn't get her/him enough stuff? perfume!

unsure that your gifts are sufficient enough to buy you awesome, frictionless sexiness? PERFUME!


and i'm sick of ads telling me how to "get more christmas", because obviously "more christmas" equates to consuming more stuff.

i'm not buying.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Saturday, December 21, 2013

winter solstice

today just after noon (my local time) the sun will reach its furthest point south and begin to turn back to us here in the northern hemisphere.

it happens every year, but it's kind of a big deal.

remember back in july, when the days were long? well, i had been noticing the shortening of the days since the summer solstice and i kind of dread every year the dark part of the year.

this year i have barely noticed the shortness of the days mostly i think because of my recent habit of getting up around 0400, so by the time that sun goes down around dinnertime, i am ready for bed an hour or so later.

but the thing is tomorrow the day will be longer, and every day after that right straight until june.

oh, it will still be dark, because the darkest part of the year is from halloween to candlemas and unless you're sensitive to it you won't so much notice the growing light until the beginning of february, but it starts today.

a long time ago (it seems) i nearly froze to death on this longest night of the year. a lot of people use this phrase "almost froze to death" meaning they were chilly, or should have worn a hat.

but almost freezing to death, for real, is and exceptionally painful thing and once you have lived that horror you never use the expression casually again.

if you want to read that story, it's here.

today i will go out in the morning, as soon as it's light out, and do my daily outside and play. then sometime around ten my friend barb will arrive and we'll have some craft projects to do and i'll make her a nice dinner.

she is, like me, a single person but unlike me she has a full-time job and an hour's commute so when she gets home in the afternoons she doesn't much feel like making any dinner, so to her the words "what do you want me to make you for diner?" are some of the most beautiful in the world.

i'm going to make her a lovely wild mushroom risotto.

we'll take some pictures so i can show you what-all we got up to.

and we'll take a moment at the solstice to rejoice that the light will be growing agin in our world.

and so may it be in you.

Friday, December 20, 2013

death to hewlett-packard

i have an HP printer. it's not that old. aside from the sad state of affairs in which printer companies (and they are ALL guilty of this) put less and less ink in the cartridges but charge you more per cartridge and thereby solve the problem of rising expenses (or the need to fill out fatter bonuses for high level management while soaking everyone else) for the last nine or ten months the printer has been doing this cute little passive-agressive machine bullshit where it shuts itself off unexpectedly and will not function again until i disconnect every cord in the power supply and perform a full reset, which is a procedure that takes five or ten minutes, has multiple steps, and usually has to be performed two or three times.

now my printer has advanced to the point where it no longer wished to print anything black. half of the diagnostics said i had a half cartridge of black ink, and half the diagnostics said i was low on at least some ink, and because i had JUST replaced the color cartridges i figured i needed to replace the black.

so i did that (cartridges being so cheap and all) and the response from the printer is to continue to decline to print anything black and also to turn itself off capriciously in the middle of any test, report or cleaning function, to start cleaning functions whenever it feels like, and still not print anything black.

death to hewlett-packard.

which brings me to an amusing thing about international affairs.

did you remember when we as a nation first got so terribly upset at iranian people shouting "death to america"?

it turns out that "death to (insert thing here)" is kind of an iranian idiom.

is your bus late? death to the bus line.
is cabbage too expensive at market? death to cabbages.
are the potatoes overcooked? death to potatoes.

so it only goes to figure that if the US messes with their country, topples their government and installs a dictator who gives the rights to their national resources to US oil companies, the thing they would say is "death to america".

and maybe because of the egregious nature of the wrongs against them they might mean it this time, but it's no use for anybody over here to get all upset at their choice of words.

death to bad translations.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

detective stories

i have decided to get rich by inventing the newest freshest next new hit detective show.

but it has to be fresh and have a new twist so it will be interesting. it won't be good enough to have interesting stories and good writing. there has to be some fresh new twist.

so i'm going to pitch a show in which the police aren't regular police, but special police- a military unit, maybe. no, a special task force. maybe profilers or something. no, that's no good. we better have a cop show where there are people solving crimes who are not cops, but for some reason are allowed to tag along to crime scenes and solve crimes.

yeah, that's the ticket. maybe some scientists. no, how about a mathematician? no, wait. a psychic. no, a fake psychic.

no, i have something better: a mystery writer!

no, wait. a dog.

no. a group of  children.

some lawyers? a convicted felon? a machine? someone with crippling disabilities?

wait. i have it. a postal worker, because postmen know everything. it will be a small matter to funnel every plot through a post office.

and just to make sure it's interesting, all of the characters will turn out to be involved in some huge and byzantine conspiracy that can never be solved because the coverup goes all the way to the top of the food chain and the very powerful people who want it silenced will stop at nothing to keep our heroes quiet except for they just won't kill them or can't kill them because reasons.


i am totally gonna be a television writer.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

christmas decorations for a digital age

ho ho ho.

so thanks to peg's tests, i can now get fancy with the digital decorations. i'm going to print up some qr codes that play tunes and put them up at my mom's so her smartphone-equipped friends can play them.

it will be very festive.

the tunes are the livelier selections from my christmas album, and if you like them, please feel free to print up the qr codes and post them at your own holiday gatherings or just put them up at your own house if you're a curmudgeonly misanthrope and just like christmas music.

later on i'll be making selections from the album available for download on soundcloud.

in the meantime, here are the qr codes.

look! it's an arts and crafts project!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

that qr code

i said i'd 'splain what i was doing with that qr code i posted a couple of days ago.

my mom belongs to a singing group that meets weekly to sing rounds. if you've ever been with my mom for more than twenty minutes, you probably know this because she is excited about her round singing group and in my family we cannot be excited about a thing without we talk about it.

so they have rounds for every occasion: rounds to say hello, rounds to say goodnight, rounds suitable for giving thanks (in an atheist-firnedly way, no less) before a meal, and rounds to express the ennui of long grey afternoons in winter.

it is not at all uncommon to be talking to my mom and she will say "oh! we have a round about that!"and then start to sing it.

so i thought: why don't i use some professional skills i happen to have around the house going to waste and maybe write a nice new little round they can sing?

that will be a nice gift for my mom.

so i wrote one, and since my stepmother is both tech-friendly and enjoys using her smartphone and tablet and such, i thought i'd drop the sound file into a qr code that can be scanned to play the music so they can hear it right away.

if you want to scan the qr code, here it is again:

but if you just want to hear it, it's right here:

Monday, December 16, 2013

tour packages

i have been doing some geocaches lately that i have left undone for years, mostly because they seemed like more annoyance than they're worth.

now, however, i'm trying to do one a day for some 250 days (you need a project, right?) and being able to check some of those off of my list will help a lot toward that.

so i have made a thorough tour of every bank in williston, every meat merchant in williston, and a great many fireplugs in williston because you have to go around to all these things and write down numbers and then perform a few layers of arithmetic because this sort of thing passes as a clever puzzle, i guess.

i am going to get these people.

i am going to put one out that make you visit every darn storm drain in williston, figure out for yourself which numbers or letters you should be collecting, and then perform some layers of arithmetic and maybe an encryption, just for spite.

because the things people say about these little tours is all stuff like "that was a fun and clever puzzle" instead of "well, that's four hours of my life i'll never get back".

Sunday, December 15, 2013

it's a mystery

yesterday it was nine degrees and sunny when i went to leave the house.

i do not consider this to be especially cold. my car started right up, but then it wouldn't shift out of second.

more to the point, the stickshift wouldn't move at all and since i was parked nose-in on an uphill slope up against a curb and with the car in gear, it wasn't going anywhere. depressing the clutch made no difference since the stickshift wasn't moving, no way, no how.

so the nice flatbed driver wanted me to just ease it into neutral so he could roll it up onto the truck.

i did not think he understood the problem.

he did not think i knew how to work an automobile.

after a little while he came to a better understanding and concluded that we had to skid the car up onto the flatbed.

two hours and some money later i was sitting in the waiting room at my mechanic, and the technician came in to ask me what the problem was. apparently he had simply driven the car into the bay and had no idea what was supposed to be wrong.

bad news: we have no idea what the problem was.
good news: there no longer appears to be a problem.

the prospect of that happening again for no particular reason looms kind of large in my imagination, though. as a single person with one car living WAY outta town, it's not a casual thing if i can't move my car.

i'm hoping for the best, but i have parked nose out facing downslope and in neutral, with the brake set HARD. it's not the most optimally secure way to park, but it will do in a pinch.

i don't DARE put it in my garage.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

li'l help?

any of you guys with smartphones want to test a thing for me?

if you scan this QR code you ought to get a playable sound file.

i only have a dumb phone, so i can't test it. can anybody see if it plays and let me know?

open letter to the jericho highway department

this is what i sent to the jericho town supervisor:

dear jericho highway department,

i live "offrum" nashville road. you know as well as i do what a mess that gets to look like and how hard it is to keep it from being five miles of bone-shaking axle-breaking quiver-sucking washboards-of-doom.

i notice the difficulty of the task never stops you from trying, though.

and it's hard to time road maintenance with the weather so that you grade or fill it just BEFORE a freeze or just BEFORE it dries out too much so your repairs stay in place as long as possible.

last week you were out on nashville road and you had timed it so your work came just as the road was firming up and just before a good hard freeze and it still looks pretty good and what i really want to say is thanks for your work. it's never finished, what you do, and maybe sometimes it seems futile but out here we really appreciate it.

so thank you.

and have an awesome day.


Friday, December 13, 2013

west jet promo

have you guys see the west jet promo?

i'd be all cynical, but i have heard from people who ONLY fly west jet (canadians, obviously) because it's the only airline that treats people nicely.

anyway, even if it is corporate propaganda, it is lovely.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

what do you want for christmas?

let's start with my philosophy on presents.

they are lovely. one should give presents for birthdays, holidays, life events, and just because it's tuesday. paradoxically, if one is not moved to give a gift at any such time, there should be no obligation unless there is already a social norm within a particular social grouping.

you know, like your family. you should probably get something for you mom's birthday whether or not you have something awesome in mind just because.

my mom actually doesn't want stuff and she really doesn't want me spending money on stuff just for the sake of stuff and if i happen to have found something nice that i know she will love it's ok with her if i buy it, but mostly she just wants to know that i took the time to remember her birthday, which can be accomplished in a number of ways.

as for me, at present receiving times, i like to have some mystery things to open. i don't have a list of things i want people to buy me but it's largely convention in my family that if i need or want a piece of gear or something pricey and i need it in june, i'll pretty much just get it but if i need the same item before my birthday or christmas, it goes on the list and i unwrap it instead of just going to the store.

but my favorite things are the surprises.

because it's not about stuff. it's about surprise and delight. it's about catching someone off guard with little things or goofy things that make them laugh or make them happy or they need but didn't know about.

and you can't have a hit every year with every person.

do not get me started on the exchange of money as gifts, or gift cards. because if it comes right down to "here's some money; now you give me some money", there's no actual gift being exchanged. and gift cards! well, that's less of a gift than it is a moneymaker for the company that sold the gift cards.

and don't all pile on me about how convenient those things are. they have their place. you think a good friend and her husband ought to enjoy a dinner for two at a fine restaurant? fine. buy a gift certificate for the likely tab. my stepmother knows that ever since i'm retired, i don't have the money to spend on itunes like i used to, so she hooks me up with that. and my brother-in-law knows that when i travel, i often come out of the backwoods sans cash and could use a hot cheap meal, so he makes sure i have a dunkin' donuts gift card to carry in my wallet. it's like emergency gear.

done that way, the gift cards become personal gifts.

but recently i was asked what i want for christmas by someone who ought to know what i like. i wanted to say "i'm sorry, but have we not been exchanging christmas and birthday gifts for forty years? have you no clue what things i like or might need based on conversation or even just reactions to what gifts you've gotten me over the years?"

because maybe you're supposed to look equally happy at every gift you receive and while i am happy with every gift that someone took the time to pick something for me because it is really nice when people take the time to give me a thing to which i am not entitled, my face does not observe this convention of politely greeting each thing with the same enthusiasm.

my face tells you just exactly how excited i am by any particular present.

and sometimes it just registers surprise, or the humor, or excitement at a thing i did not know i needed up until that point.

here is a prediction about my face christmas morning: i know my mother is getting me a tent. i need a new tent, and i want a new tent and she is getting me a very nice tent. because i know this ahead of time right down to the brand and model, my face will not register the same kind of wild delight that it will when somebody gives me a thing i love that is a total surprise.

the fun of it is finding what the person will like. the fun is figuring what you can do to create some enjoyment for them.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

stuff in my oven

in the mornings i do stuff on my computer. then i go out to play and when i come home i watch tv and cook.

i maybe don't have the discipline to do all the things i need to do all at once, so if i watch tv and work puzzles (which helps me later for going out to play), i force my little self to get off the sofa at every commercial and do house things: cook, laundry, vacuum the chair cushions. it;s a good compromise and stuff gets done.

yesterday i baked some things, which has the added benefit of warming up the house.

in my oven: a bread pudding, and a pan of beans, beans, fritos and cheese.

neither is very fancy, but both are very good. and the bread pudding, at least, is all good stuff. the bread i used was a half loaf of bread i baked myself (bit did not eat while fresh) and a quickbread i wasn;t in love with, put in the freezer and let it get a little freezerburn.

experimental bread is either delicious or it's something to put in a pudding later. bread pudding as practiced in my house is very like french toast. with butter and syrup. a lot of syrup.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


yesterday afternoon i was poking around in the ends of guardrails as is my habit (never you mind why) and i came across a mouse nest.

now there are two things one frequently finds in the ends of guardrails: mouse nests and wasp nests. this time of year you are usually safer with the wasp nests, since nobody will be home.

usually mice are not at home, either, and what have found is an abandoned mouse nest, since mice pee right in their nests and instead of cleaning house when it gets rank, they just move.

yes, i DO wear gloves when i am sticking my hands in guardrails, thanks for asking.

today i found an especially robust mouse nest and i gave it a tentative poke (because i am SERIOUS about guardrail inspection) and a little grey thing streaked out a back door and scurried away into the grass. i would say it was cute, but all i saw was a blur of movement.

hopefully the little dear won't be too upset and will be able to return home later.

Monday, December 09, 2013

open letter to stewart butterfield

dear stoot,

they were good times.

back in the day the sign of a really good party was when you were asleep in the front yard. i think the greatest honor you ever did me was to almost come to a party at my house and then before you even knocked on the door you were asleep in the front yard and you stayed there for hours snoozing gently as guests came and went.

a year ago tonight i made my last pilgrimages to that hidden shrine to you.

yeah, i'm sure it was a joke when your staff hid it up on the mezzanine level but it was also a sign of affection for you, gratitude for doing whatever magic it took to call that world into being.

we loved you for that world.

because no matter if it wasn't viable as a moneymaker, it was hauntingly, inescapably beautiful. it was so well drawn and so compelling that even now a year into exile i swear i could not just hear that landscape, but smell and feel it, which was amazing for a 2d scroller.

it was special, stoot. it was my home.

don't get me wrong; i'm largely a reality-based person. i am at home in the real world and love my mountains and my little home near the golf course and bread pudding and all that but Ur was in a very real sense also my home and i try not to think about it too much these days because i am so homesick for it that i cry.

for real, stoot. i miss my little home at 5117 estevan meadows. i miss the ilmenskie deeps. i miss the streets of jethimadh.

it was a great thing you did there. i hope your new venture makes you a crapton of money. i hope this because i want good things for you, but also because some of us out here still hope that one day you'll be able to bring us something like glitch and like lost people waiting for the messiah, in some way we kind of think you're the guy that will bring us home.

anyone who's been following my story for more than twenty minutes knows that i always sign my open letters "love, flask" but this time i really, really mean it.

i hope when you look back on glitch you are proud of it and i hope someday we will meet again. i'll leave a pillow out in the yard. come by anytime.


Sunday, December 08, 2013

open letter to the guy on the snowmobile


you are either a very skilled rider of snowmobiles, or you are a crazy man with no regard for your own safety.

maybe both.

my hat off to you.



Saturday, December 07, 2013

you are so busted.

so i was on the interstate the other day and a schoolbus full of middle school kids from a nearby district passed me on the way to a field trip. and middle school kids are great at clowning around on trips for the "benefit" of passers-by.

what i did not expect was the vulgarity and sexual nature of their gestures, which would have been really gross coming from a grown man, but were doubly creepy coming from children.

so i sent off this note to their school district:

hey, hi.

two day ago i was passed on the interstate by one of your busses and about halfway back on the right a group of boys were making sexually suggestive gestures out the windows.

i don't know who in your district covers that sort of thing, but i'm guessing it's not how you want your students represented and i'm guessing someone will want to have a chat with the little miscreants.

here's a picture of the bus and a picture of the side of the bus with one of the children in question visible, so he might be a good place to start the conversation about how you wish to be represented to the community.

oh, goodness, i remember my days teaching middle school! i'm retired now, but kids, well, they're always kids.

i hope otherwise you're having an awesome day.

Friday, December 06, 2013

orig audio

i'm going to stress that i don't do sponsored anythings on this blog. i don't receive goods for review, i don't  get clickthroughs or discounts for writing about companies or products.

if i had a big enough readership that somebody might want to sponsor me, i might accept such a thing, but i'd disclose that because shilling without disclosure is icky.

i am only mentioning it because i am about to talk about a product and a company.

a couple of months ago a company called orig audio was celebrating some kind of anniversary and they were GIVING PRODUCT AWAY for the cost of postage.

i know, crazy, right?

and the product was a thing that i had at least an interest in, so i figured it was worth the cost of shipping to have a look.

i ordered a little thing called the rock-it, which is a cute little device that you plug into your ipod or whatever and it turns basically any surface that can resonate into a speaker.

so i tested mine. my night table, my windows, my walls, my desk: they all make excellent speakers. the windows made the best, loudest, brightest sound, but i figured i probably want to subject glass surfaces to fewer resonating vibrations, not more, but i was curious to try at least a little.

short verdict: it is a very cool little product.


it's time for me to do my christmas shopping and both my brother-in-law and my stepmother like little gadgets, so i wanted to get them each one. and there was a really good sale with a promo code, so i stepped up and placed an order.

only i neglected to hit the little button to APPLY my promo code, so i tried desperately to cancel the order and start over, but all i could find was a button to reorder the same order which MIGHT have been like a redo button.

it wasn't. so now i had made a DOUBLE order and i needed to cancel one and i was looking for how to do that when i got an email notification that my second order had just been processed and was going to ship.

panic set in.

what? it's like six o'clock in the morning. do NOT tell me someone is working in the shipping department somewhere on the west coast at this hour.

but apparently yes.

so i tweet them (because tweeting these days seems to get you to customer service pretty quickly) and in minutes somebody gives me an email address and i send the an email asking them to cancel the first order and they write back to say that i got to them JUST in time and i should expect a refund in two to three business days.

and i wrote back to say that actually the evidence suggests that someone in shipping was on the ball since the second order with the coupon had shipped already, but the first one i wanted to cancel somehow got hung up and the nice customer service lady wrote back to say she'd just checked it out and the guy in shipping had seen it and held it up pending confirmation.

it is eighteen hours later and i have already received my refund.


good product, excellent service. website design not so good- it could use a cancel button, but i guess you can't have everything.

edit to add:  i just got a tweet from someone in customer service who hadn't yet heard it had all been taken care of. that's some zealous service. less so passing information, but forgiven since the important stuff all got done.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

house afire

let's face it: a house burning down is pretty cool to watch.

you know, except for the part where you are looking at somebody's life trauma and you shouldn't be rubbernecking, but sometimes when there's a building that needs demolition it will be turned over to a local fire department for a training exercise so if you stop to watch that, there's no shame in standing around and watching.

which is what happened this sunday in waterbury.

we went by it a couple of times and at first i had no idea why there were so many police and then with the firemen and the boarded up house i thought maybe there had been a fire overnight and my, weren't they quick to board it all up but THEN we noticed (so hooray for our awesome powers of observation) that they were SETTING the fire and by the time we came back through downtown it was a pretty spectacular fully involved structure fire.

it was sort of a fireman party.

because while being a fireman is serious business, they like their toys and costumes and all the cool stuff that goes with it, so a planned burn means they got to go out and be all fireman-y and practice with the equipment on a real fire only nobody's out of a home and nobody gets hurt.

and i am using the term "fireman" even though there were a number of women on the squad, and at least one in a command position. and there was one cute boy, so small in his fireman suit! he had to have been just barely however old you have to be to sign up to be a fireman. he didn't look old enough to shave.

but that's good. kids like him are where tomorrow's competent and experienced firemen come from.

and i am in favor of competent and experienced firemen.

so it was awesome, standing there watching the house burn down.

and hot. it was plenty hot standing across the street and off a ways to one side, and depending on what part of the house was burning most, it was sometimes uncomfortably hot.

the firemen were working also on keeping the houses on either side wet so they didn't burn and i was having a hard time imagining having that conversation: we'd like to burn down this house next to you, but don't worry. we'll keep your house nice and wet the whole time.

it turns out that both of the houses on either side are owned by the same entity and presumably insured by the same carrier.

and in case you want to watch pretty much unedited film of the house burning, here's my video:

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

sunday morning in waterbury

my friend barb asked me if i wanted to go hear a reading at a bookstore.

the bookstore is bridgestone books, and the author is willem lange, reading his children's book favor johnson.

i think of it as less of children's book and more of a thing my family and i always listen to on the radio and we always cry. sometimes i start crying about tow words in because i'm kind of a softie.

so anyway, it's a thing i want to go to, but i was tired from the day before and kind of thinking that maybe i didn't want to go out, but i still had to go grocery shopping and i still had to find a geocache (i'm trying to do a long streak of days in which i find at least one, which means i have to put on clothes and leave the house) but there's absolutely no reason i can't do my grocery shopping in waterbury and it turns out barb wouldn't mind going to a geocache and she hasn't done her grocery shopping yet, either.

so that's our plan. fun in the outdoors, a book reading by a marginally famous author, and grocery shopping.

all in all, a pretty nice morning and we came out of it with the grocery shopping done.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

eggs in winter

my egg lady's hens do not lay in winter. she does not light them artificially. seems to me that a chicken might appreciate some additional light during the dark parts of the year, but maybe not.

anyway, i winter i have to get my eggs somewhere else.

saturday morning i was out to play with a friend and we came across a house where they were selling eggs for $3/dozen, which is a good price for pastured chickens, especially if you consider that if you can GET pasture raised chicken eggs at the store, they go for six dollars a dozen.

it's a lot of money for eggs, but i like eggs and things i make with eggs and i cannot bear to buy eggs from battery farms knowing how those animals live.

and then there's world health, because agribusiness doesn't want to stop feeding antibiotics to the herds and flocks because regular feeding of antibiotics increases profits, but we don't have very many years left before we (the people of the world) have no antibiotics we can use anymore.

there already exist bacteria that are resistant to every antibiotic we have, and forty percent of people who get that bug die. that bug is so deadly that if you get it, your best bet is for the part of your body that gets it TO BE CUT OFF.

and the really cute thing about this bug? it is able to pass its antibiotic resistance to OTHER bacteria.

that's right, kids. they teach each other how to beat our antibiotics.

now, this arms race between us and the bacteria has been going on as long as we have existed as organisms, but our own agribusinesses are hastening our demise, and our pharmaceutical companies are not developing new antibiotics because there's not enough money in that.

there's little profit in developing drugs that people with firm diagnoses will take for ten days and then be done with it. drug companies want to make drugs people will take for the rest of their lives, drugs that can be widely prescribed for conditions that are more nebulous, and drugs for erectile dysfunction.

because there's a TON of money to be made of of old rich guys' penises. and the medicalization of aging. the natural decrease of testosterone is now a medical condition that needs to be treated.

"it's not you," the ads say. "you're still young and virile. you just have low T".

i'm calling bullshit.

you're getting older, just like the rest of us. you do not need to have a woody like you did when you were sixteen.

so yeah, i'd like to see drug companies working on the problem of antibiotic resistance. i'd like to see agribusiness quit feeding the remains of our antibiotic resistance to the inhumanely treated animal living in filth.

and i'd like to see more people not buying the products of these bad practices.

Monday, December 02, 2013


i'm going to come right out and tell you this is the best eggnog that exists on the planet.

do not try to tell me about your grandmother's recipe, because i have had a lot of eggnogs and made a lot of eggnogs and there is only ONE eggnog i have ever tasted that i have ever been willing to get in my car and drive ninety minutes to buy, because it is sold local to the place where it is made, and i live ninety minutes by way of the interstate from the nearest store that sells it.

it is, of course, the eggnog from mcnamara dairy in plainfield, new hampshire. and sometimes when you drive all the way over there you find it's sold out.

it is THAT good.

but the president of vermont community college is of that family and goes back to work the farm weekends and because of that my stepmother who works at VCC can get eggnog directly from joyce and i will tell you that there is not a more rich and decadent breakfast than a big bowl of warm bread pudding with a glass of really good eggnog.

i would link you to the mcnamara dairy webpage, but they don't have one. they're too busy farming.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

trail change

here's a little clip from one of my trail days at catamount.

it's really amazing how trails appear and disappear according to season. we use some of the trial in both winter and summer, but others are seasonal.

winter trails that are allowed to grow grass all summer seem not to be there at all until the grass dies back in fall.  summer trails disappear under leaves.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


since my annoyance with little miss thing of last week seems to resonate with some of you other old folk, here's a little tune you can hum to yourself while you sit in your rocking chair balancing your checkbook:

Friday, November 29, 2013

fun in the ER

ok, so last week i made an unexpected trip to the ER.

i've been having a good deal of abdominal pain, lower right quadrant. at some point i thought to ask the internet: where exactly is my appendix? should i call my doctor?

you know, because after four nights awake with it, i thought maybe it's irresponsible not to mention it to a medical professional.

at my doctor's office they said come in tomorrow.

and the nice doctor lady said she thought i had a hot appendix, so she sent me right up to the ER.

at the ER they thought maybe not appendix, maybe kidney.

either way they do a buncha tests, including a CT scan, because that will give a lot of information about a lot of things in a big fat hurry.

and they get me in the room with the machine and THAT'S when they tell me there's going to be an enema contrast.


who doesn't love a surprise enema?

and i'm already in pain and there's all that stuff about breathe now. hold your breath. breathe out.

and on top of all that i have to concentrate on not leaking the contrast fluid all over plus the minute they mention the enema portion of the evening, i suddenly feel like i'm going to be able to give that urine sample they'd asked for.

we have a short discussion about how it's pretty much standard not to mention enema contrast to patients until they get to radiology, except in the case of young men because the effect they're going for - one in which the patient is less worried and tense, and apparently in everyone except young men SURPRISE enemas accomplish this-

apparently in young men the technicians insist that male doctors do the informing about this next part of the program because there's a cultural thing about young men and things being inserted rectally.

my discomfort is offset somewhat by the amusing prospect of being able to say the words "surprise enema".

short version of the story: i have nothing 'splodey. no hot appendix, no giant tumor, no twisted ovary, a whole list of things it isn't.

i still have pain, though. i have to be careful if i sneeze.

the nice doctor ventures a theory that while i was out playing in the woods or something i probably pulled or stretched something and it got all inflamed and angry and it's not stopping its little tantrum. he suggests i take ibuprofen three times a day for two weeks, even if i don't feel i need it. his theory is that eventually the inflamed thingie (whatever it is) will disengage and i'll be back to normal.

in the meantime, i'm ok with discomfort. as my mother explained in the ER, a thing has to hurt pretty much bad for me to even notice. it would just, like, really SUCK to have a 'splodey appendix or a huge tumor or something that was maybe gonna kill me soon and with that off the table i can just get back to the normal stuff.

yeah, normal.

or reasonable facsimile thereof.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

one day's difference

i saw this out on the westford road, and then passing it the next day took a picture of it again.

days go on, seasons change, the idea remains.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

where i stopped reading

i subscribe to the listserve. if getting an email every day from a total stranger is interesting to you, you should also subscribe.

a few days ago we got a message that contained these lines:

I am an 18 year old NYC college student so perhaps I’m too young to be annoyed with society or maybe I’m the quintessential cynical age. For those of you reading who feel a young adult’s opinions are invalid (you’re an age-ist basically) feel free to stop reading and go deal with your more pressing adult matters (go balance your check book or something!). 

that's where i stopped reading.

it's the first listserve message i haven't bothered to read.

it's not because i think young people (and i do not draw the line at young adults) have nothing to say. children can have perfectly valid concerns and observations about the world we share.

but do you see what she did there? 

she gets two sentences in and already it's about who has valid voice and all us old people should go balance our checkbooks or something.

as if i ever balance my checkbook.

but she's made all us old people boring people who are automatically ageist unless we want to listen to her from her cranky little opening.

so i stopped reading.

she doesn't care, anyway.

but i can legally buy beer.

nyah, nyah.

i think i'll go rent a car and buy some craft beers or ask to see the wine list in a nice restaurant.

you know, because i CAN.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

hot stuff

so i was coming along notch road and i saw a big pile of trash or sumthin' and i stopped to have a look.

it was a lot of lab glass.

a LOT.

flasks florence, erlenmeyer, and buechner. retorts, funnels, and all manner of things pyrex that i couldn't begin to identify.

and it's clearly either a dump of stolen property OR it's a dump of stuff somebody was going to use for their drug lab.

maybe both.

because nobody loses a huge shipment of wrapped new-and-used lab glass offrum some rural road.

so i called the police. i figure that stuff is expensive and there's probably a high school chem lab or some other test facility that had to report a mess o' this stuff missing, else some enterprising young people thought the old sand pit would be an excellent location for their new drug lab.

the police did come out to look at it, and very nicely put up some caution tape, i guess on account of the broken glass hazard, but after a few weeks the stuff was still there.

i helped myself to some things. you know, because flasks.

at this point it's just so much abandoned litter and you might as well pick it up while it's still unbroken.

i gave a couple of flasks to my sister (who likes round glass things) for her birthday, but i was very disappointed nobody asked me where i had gotten them.

it would have been fun to say "i stole them from a crime scene!"

you know, optimal sourcing of birthday presents.

Monday, November 25, 2013

plain brown wrappers

a number of years ago i quit buying wrapping paper, mostly. sometimes i will buy a roll or two of black paper for use at christmas, but mostly i go with brown bags.

recently i went to dinner to celebrate the birthdays of my sister and my stepmother.

my stepmother got the one labeled "nearly respectable wrapping".

Sunday, November 24, 2013


between seasons at catamount they do two things: they rest the trails which helps curb erosion during mud season and stick season and they mark the new season's trails.

side note: in vermont we have six seasons: the four regular ones, and mud season and stick season. mud season is the time between snow melt and when the ground dries out between winter and spring, and stick season is the time between when the leaves fall down and when the snow comes.

at catamount the trails are closed during mud season and stick season, as well as for parts of spring and fall.

the winter trails are different than the summer trails, and the summer trails of one year are different than the summer trails of another year. 
of course, you can use all the same trails every year and just add the new cut, but the marked trails change seasonally which gives people some variety if they like to stick to what's marked.

wen you get right down to it, though, that means that in addition to preparing trails for summer or winter use, old arrows have to be pulled so new ones can be put up. someone has to walk each trail with a screw gun and a pack basket and bring in all the old ones.

sometimes that someone is me.

sometimes i kind of think that what i'm really best suited for is norwegian television, where long-running documentaries about firewood or knitting are extremely popular.

the trails are closed, but the trail designer gets to ride his spiffy fat-tire bike anyway. take a look at his back wheel and showy cutouts!

technically, they're meant to reduce the weight of that huge wheel, but they look cool.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

mountain road closed: so what?

the mountain road (vermont route 108) closed for the winter a couple of weeks ago.

one saturday morning recently i decided to park my car at the gate and walk up the road. i did not realize that a closed road equals an instant rec path.

hard to get a parking place.

have a look at the google map if you like.

if you'd like to see a cute little streetview player of this route in google maps, it's here. i really, really recommend looking at that because cool.

it was a crowded place. there were families out with kids, people walking dogs, people walking,
running, traveling by ski, snowshoe, snowboard, sled, snowmobile, people carrying rock climbing gear, and people on horseback.

apparently just because it's going to be a few months before we can  once again travel conveniently in our automobiles between stowe and jeff is no reason to be sad.

here's my full set of pictures:

Friday, November 22, 2013

apple forage

i know, i know.

i keep telling you all that i'm going to show you my forage bags with some of this year's apples, but i never do.

here are apples that i gathered along the forest road near somerset landing.

and here they are sorted. there's a BRIGHT RED apple, a red-orange-pink stripey apple, a yellow apple with hot pink spots, a yellow orange stripey apple, and a yellow-orange stripey apple with red spots.

they all taste different.

in my kitchen: apples, apple butter, apple bread pudding.

off to the far right? michelle bachmann.

no, seriously. it's pad thai. smarter and more practical.

apple bread pudding.

mmmmmm, pudding.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

free pumpkin!

ok, so i made this thing.

i needed recipes to use up pumpkin because halloween day i was driving down route two and at conant farm they were giving away the last of the season's pumpkins on the lawn for free.

now, you maybe see free pumpkins and think "decorations!" but i see free pumpkins and i see food.

so i found that recipe and pretty much made it.

when i say "pretty much", there are some differences in how it got executed in my house.

for starters, even though everyone tells you that for cooking you really want to use darlin' little sugar pumpkins and not field pumpkins.

that's all fine and dandy, but what i have to work with is one enormous misshapen FREE pumpkin.

free, as in "there's a few more dollars i'll have to spend on heat or something later on."

second thing and along the same lines: while i know onions are not interchangeable with shallots, they come close and i HAVE onions that i'd like to use before they go soft and shallots have to come from the grocery store.

so if i adjust the recipe, the only ingredient i have to buy special is the goat cheese.

and i know you are all dying to know: is it good?

why, yes.

yes it is.

it is very, very good.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

october road 2013

here are the photos.

hey, professor! could you turn off the lights?

let's roll the film.


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