Friday, February 19, 2021


 I've memorized exactly two poems in my life  - both when I was 13 years old - and I've enjoyed them many, many times since then. Yesterday while I was sweeping I was thinking, "If seven maids with seven mops, swept for half a year, do you suppose," the walrus said, "that they could get it clear?" 

"I doubt it," said the carpenter and shed a bitter tear. 

Sweeping is like that.

I don't think there's anything about lyrics that makes them easier to remember, but they are.  I think it's because every time you sing the song it refreshes the memory. And you probably sing more often than you recite. So, here's a sweeping reference in lyrics. "Last night in my dreams I was stationed forever on a far little rock in the midst of the sea. My one chance of life was a ceaseless endeavor, to sweep off each wave as it swept over me." This is The Housewife's Lament. It's the first song I learned to play on the guitar. 

I want to choose another poem to memorize. Even at my age, I think I can do it. I thought there must be other poems about sweeping, so I googled it. That's a rabbit hole I really can't afford to go down today. There are more than three million hits. I'll just choose something from my favorite book: Favorite Poems Old and New - still in print after sixty years. 

Check back for news of my selection. And thoughts about the other poem I memorized when I was young. 

Wednesday, April 01, 2020


So many things in life involve trade-offs. Even the simplest things.

I keep a jug of cider near my chair so I don't have to get up to get a drink. I know. It's lazy. And I really could use the exercise of going downstairs to get the drink. But lately, I've been thinking that cider has a lot of calories. Maybe I could switch to fizzy water.

A friend kindly bought me a six-pack of lime fizzy water. I tried it. I LIKE it. But the next day I looked at the bottle and realized I really can't be responsible for bringing all that plastic into the world.

I googled seltzer makers. I think the results can be summarized as complicated, expensive and definitely not waste-free. I realized that I really don't need bubbles. I just need something a bit more interesting than tap water.

This is it! Fruit-infused waters. There must be thousands of possible combinations many of which can be found here.  I haven't tried them yet, but I'm hopeful. I have to give up bubbles (which my cider didn't have anyway). But in exchange, I can give up calories and AND plastic.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

This should still be a good place to record ideas. Sometimes when I'm looking for something I remember writing, I run across other things I've forgotten about but still enjoy.

I've been watching and enjoying Finding Forrester. I like Sean Connery. And I like stories about smart, decent people. And I like stories wherein the smart decent people win.
A unique relationship develops between an eccentric, reclusive novelist and a young, amazingly gifted scholar-athlete. After the novelist discovers that the young athlete is also an excellent writer and secretly takes him on as his protégé, they develop an unlikely friendship.
That blurb omits several important details. The "reclusive novelist" is an alum of the exclusive prep school that Jamal, the young "scholar-athlete" is attending. And, as the name suggests, Jamal is black.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Trading Bubbles

I remember when Facebook was all about friends and games. Not that long ago, really. My wall in early 2010 was all about Farmville 'til March when I learned how to post pictures. Then while friends were posting pictures of their meals and their grandchildren, I was posting pictures of garden flowers. 

Somewhere along the way, the newsfeed started including "sponsored content," then clickbait. Now apparently it's all about Big Data. Facebook's Algorithm vs. Democracy. Facebook's model seems to be to cram down your throat more and more of what you seem to like. 

The Guardian experimentally created stereotypically liberal and conservative Facebook newsfeeds and asked ten people (five liberals and five conservatives) to use the feed opposite to their own perspective during the month leading up to the 2016 election. The article describing the experiment appeared on November 16, 2016. I was interested in how they characterized liberal and conservative.
We created two Facebook accounts from scratch. “Rusty Smith”, our right-wing avatar, liked a variety of conservative news sources, organizations, and personalities, from the Wall Street Journal and The Hoover Institution to Breitbart News and Bill O’Reilly. “Natasha Smith”, our left-wing persona, preferred The New York Times, Mother Jones, Democracy Now and Think Progress. Rusty liked Tim Tebow and the NRA. Natasha liked Colin Kaepernick and
Okay. I read NYT daily and Mother Jones occasionally. Not Democracy Now or Think Progress. Their coverage is hopelessly limited to Trump politics. is too much preaching to the choir and not enough science. I had to Google Colin Kaepernick but I see how that could suggest a liberal leaning. Let me add that I watch or read lots of C-SPAN, PBS and (gulp) Scientific American.

But the conservative sites... Wall Street Journal is okay. Breitbart and Bill O'Reilly, nope. Hoover Institution was new to me, clearly conservative but interesting. I heard William Kristol on C-SPAN this morning, so I added The Weekly Standard to the conservative list.

So, I guess what Facebook doesn't seem to know about me is that I care more about diversity and good writing that progressive vs. conservative.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

I Am From

A few days ago The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC included an interview with Steve Zeitlin, executive director of City Lore and author of The Poetry of Everyday Life: Storytelling and the Art of Awareness. He talked about a writing exercise he uses in the Cooper's Union writing class he teaches.

Zeitlin's use of the exercise was inspired by George Ella Lyon's poem, Where I'm From. The idea has been used so much that Googling "I am from" yields many lovely poems and nearly as many templates and lesson plans to guide student writers.

I've been writing a poem. I think this is an exercise that could be done every day with different results.

I am from the mountains. And the woods.
Solitude, silence and song.
Secrecy and stubbornness.
Ideas and imagination.
I am from the piano
and the sweet, fragrant  Weigelia in June.
I am from pine pitch
And the dirt road with the wooden bridge over the brook.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


RifatAnkaraOnce in a blue moon, Facebook really pays off. A friend linked to The Verge net neutrality article. It was good. Then I had time to browse around The Verge. Almost immediately I found this cloud article - which led to The Cloud Appreciation Society. I LOVE clouds. I learned about the basic Cumulus, Nimbus, Stratus, Cirrus in Girl Scouts. And I've always wondered about them. 

So, I set off on a cloud search which led to The Royal Meteorological Society. Turns out, Brits take clouds rather more seriously than we do. But then there was NASA's The Importance of Understanding Clouds where I learned that the key ingredients of clouds are water vapor and aerosols. 

I thought aerosols were the enemy. So, I clicked on Atmospheric Aerosols: What Are They, and Why Are They So Important? As I had surmised from context in the Clouds article, they are minute particles in the atmosphere. And they're important because they interact directly and indirectly with the Earth's energy budget. 

I don't know why it had never occurred to me that the earth has an energy budget. Of the 340 watts per square meter of solar energy that falls on the Earth, 29% is reflected back into space, about 23% is absorbed in the atmosphere and the remaining 48% is absorbed at the surface of the Earth. NASA always capitalizes "Earth." I guess that's another thing I should have known.  

At this point I'm seriously nibbling at the edges of climate change and I'm adding links to my toolbar at an alarming rate. I paused to find something wrote about clouds a long time ago. I searched my blog for clouds and sure enough - there was this great picture of an iridescent cloud. As I was scanning the other articles the search listed, I realized I didn't remember most of the things I wrote here. And I remembered how much I used to enjoy writing them. And what a great place this is to collect links and ideas. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Housekeeping 101

Funny thing about housekeeping: there's a surprisingly fine line between clean and obsessive. I dunno. I mopped the kitchen floor. But it's a bit filmy. I'd better rinse it. And rinse it again. Maybe I should buff it and wax it - not necessarily in that order. "Ah! That looks good," I think - as I bend over to pick up a wisp of cat hair.

Over the years, I've developed my own weird Gold Star Chart. Even shared it with my daughter. I like it 'cause I don't have to do everything on the list. But if I do most of them, I can more or less keep up. Here's another one. And another. And another. Oh, face it. There must be thousands.

Then there's the series of pictures I took to illustrate "clean" for my daughter. It's a wonder she hasn't disowned me. Still, I admit, I find these picture to be a useful reminder.

Okay. I suppose that's enough procrastinating. I should probably go take down the Christmas tree...

Saturday, September 07, 2013

It's September.

Blazers and loafers.

School buses.


And the heavenly scent of honey from my hardworking bees.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Good Food

Why don't those words rhyme?

This Chick CooksNever mind. Thanks to Ruth for the link to This Chick Cooks.

chick pea salad with summer veggies
 I'm looking forward to Blueberry Hamburgers. I've got lots of frozen blueberries to use up before this season's harvest.  

And Chick Pea Summer Salad. Yum.  

Monday, June 04, 2012

Facts and Logic

We use the Truth-O-Meter to rate the accuracy of political claims.Whether or not you agree with FactCheck or Politfact's ratings, you can learn a lot from their facts and logic - or simply their inclination to look beneath the surface.

Politifact's six ratings, True through False and Pants On Fire, are based on five principles.
  • Words matter. 
  • Context matters. 
  • Burden of proof is on the person making the statement.
  • Statements can be right and wrong. 
  • Timing and information available at the time the statement is made.
I don't know how or where I developed the habit of questioning so much of what I read and hear. But the habit has served me well. And I still believe that if we all had access to facts and good logic, we'd tend to reach similar conclusions. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Charlie Helps in the Garden

Charlie's helping Bill weed the garden. It turns out that Charlie's specialty is deadheading dandelions and he's really good at it. He just needs more practice with where to place his feet when reaching for the tasty dandelions. We only let him do this 'cause these are raised beds and he's gotten just lazy enough to avoid lifting his foot the 8" necessary to step into the bed. 

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Why I Can't Get Enough Work Done

We were replacing the deck last weekend. Late in the afternoon we took a break to admire our progress, "when glancing aside for a moment I spied..." this baby squirrel. I quickly put myself between him and the cats. B wanted me to pick him up but I thought he'd bite me.


As it turns out he wanted nothing more than to be friends with us. He happily scrambled up B's clothes.

I suppose this means they've lost their mother.

We spent the better part of the next hour trying to get him to go back to his tree (and taking pictures) only to have his sibling join him on the ground.

I really don't think B's going to volunteer as a surrogate - tho' I do think it crossed her mind. 

Monday, May 16, 2011


Three years ago, we built this garage and driveway over my favorite garden. We moved a lot of plants, but I knew we'd miss some. The next two years one pathetic leaf emerged in this spot. This year, look!

I'm not sure if the message is forgiveness or "Nya, nya, nya, nya, nya."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Visualizing My Budget

Well, this helps explain why I struggle with my spending. Last year I made $21,000. But I spent -gulp- $9,000 on taxes. I knew I was paying taxes. But I never put the pieces together to visualize just what a chunk of my income that is.

Income tax (including FICA) is one-third of the total tax. Property tax (not counting the acres of woodland) is the big chunk. I'm clinging to the comforting thought that property taxes, including that huge school tax bill,  support my own neighborhood.  I love my log house in the woods. But if I had a mortgage, I'd never be able to afford those taxes on this salary. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Most Beautiful Stove in the World

All summer this space silently weighed on my mind and tugged at my heart.My beloved thirty year old Waterford cookstove was missing. I joked that it was spending the summer at rehab camp. But it wasn't funny to me. It was a bit like my house was in a coma - lacking any life energy and seriously in danger. 

The trouble with cast iron (as my stove repairman repeatedly told me) is that it expands and contracts. Over its 10,000 days of heating my home and cooking my meals, one by one its parts loosened, its screws dropped out, bits of refractory cement turned up in my dustpan. From time to time I replaced worn out parts. I resigned myself to the fact that it became so leaky that it wouldn't hold a fire more than a couple of hours and I was using twice as much wood as I had when it was new.

Six months and $5,000 later, it's back! In one tiny detail it reminds me of the moment after Maggy was born when a sense of relief washed over me making me aware of how anxious I had been over the preceding months.

I expected it in August - or maybe September. But one after another, things went wrong in the repair process. Each new problem required another replacement part from Ireland. Is is possible that they don't have air freight in Ireland? When nights got chilly in October my subliminal anxiety edged its way into my consciousness. In November as I planned the Thanksgiving menu I could barely control my frustration.

Finally the stove's return was scheduled for November 24th - the day before Thanksgiving. The schedule didn't make me feel much better. There was still at least a 50-50 chance something else would go wrong. Tuesday the 23rd, as I drove home from work, I imagined the inevitable phone message waiting for me. Sure enough, the answering machine light was blinking. It was Angela asking if they could bring it Wednesday afternoon instead of morning and trying to reassure me not to worry. They absolutely would bring it Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday I occupied myself with distracting chores all day. Mid-afternoon when the truck pulled into the driveway I was cautiously optimistic, skeptical, hopeful and doubtful all at the same time. I couldn't make small talk with Bob. After greeting him and pointing out just where the feet of the stove should go (even after six months of cleaning the floor, the marks where it used to stand were still there) I went upstairs to clean some more. Hours later, there it was in all its nearly new glory.

On the plus side, Bob charged me just what he'd estimated in August (twice what he'd estimated in June) tho' he said, and I believe, that he'd put quite a bit more labor into it than he'd estimated. On the down side, because of the paint and cement tempering and burning off, I couldn't cook our Thanksgiving turkey in it. Thank heaven for B's gas oven upstairs. Still, we did all our stovetop cooking on the Waterford and enjoyed it's warmth.

It was truly like watching the house awakening from a coma. And I was thankful. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Everyday Things

Years ago I read a cool book The Design of Everyday Things. In a modest way, it changed my life. I learned, among other things, that on doors in public places horizontal handles push out and vertical handles pull. It's hard to describe how much that simple concept has simplified my life.

Tonight I visited with a friend I haven't seen in years. She told me her daughter recently started a business in Human Factors consulting. Who knew that everyday things had become a "multidisciplinary field incorporating  psychology, engineering, industrial design" called Human Factors. And that this would lead to "World Usability Day."

I want to know more about this.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Latest Project

I'm torn between surprising Maggy and bragging about the latest DIY project. I'm betting that Maggy will be surprised when she sees this. And by Thanksgiving she will forget about it and still be surprised when she comes home.

I've avoided having guests for months because thanks to my four feline friends, my seventeen year old carpet is really, really embarrassing.

Taking out the old carpet was really the worst part of the project. This new wood product is a snap to install. It really won't allow you to do it wrong.

I like the new effect a lot! Can't wait to have company now.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I Love Summer

  • Sungold (very early, very sweet)
  • Snow White (sweet, juicy, refreshing)
  • Black Cherry (distinctive, rich flavor)
  • random green tomato I accidentally knocked off the vine
  • Sweet Chelsea (the red one in the back, sweet and juicy, big for a cherry.)

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Reality Based Community

Two delightful rays of reality this week.

Mayor Bloomberg explains why construction of a Mosque near Ground Zero will proceed. We do not allow our government or individuals to interfere with each other's religious practices. Or with the lawful use of private property.

Federal Judge Vaughn Walker handed down a decision overturning California's ban on gay marriage. We don't allow a majority vote to deny human rights to a minority. Government's role in marriage is to record who is married and enforce laws that ensure that marriage partners are treated fairly. Individual religious beliefs may judge whose marriages are sanctified within a particular religion. But that is not the role of government.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

New Look

It's that time in summer when one welcomes a rainy day to catch up indoors. I should be balancing my checkbook. But Blogger has made it easier to change the blog template. So, here's a new look for you and an inspiration for me to write here more often.