Monday, January 24, 2011

Have you noticed it’s winter?

Negative 12°F (-24°C) this morning, according to the thermometer outside the kitchen window.

The key is these situations is always wind, of course, and there wasn’t any to speak of, so Paul and I were reasonably cozy for our hour out, though I may not look it. Eyelashes frozen, of course.

Lake Placid, NY reported in this morning at -37° (-38°), so Woodbury’s in the tropical part of the Northeast today.


On the other hand, maybe not so much. Paul got back home to find that his furnace wasn’t working. He has an outside tank, and fuel oil can gel up in really cold weather (even, apparently, with multiple applications of the special additive that costs $17 a quart). In the meantime, I’ve suggested he leave his fridge open to warm the place up. [7pm: Just back from E’s red barn in the back. Her furnace conked out too, but I think (knock, knock, knock on wood) I got it going again. A nice new condo is looking pretty good right now. Or maybe a trip to New Zealand. 12 days, 2 hours, 43 minutes, 53 seconds.]

Sunday, January 23, 2011

More frozen lashes

It was -8°F (-22°C) this morning. My eyelashes got fairly welded together. But my feet were cozy. No Brashers today, but my Sorels with their felt insoles and two pairs of wool socks. Multiple layers all over, of course, with the excellent Patagonia R1 Hoody coming into its own under my joyously rediscovered OR Peruvian hat. Turtle Fur neck gaiter, of course, or my manly chin would have fallen off, along with my aristocratic nose. It’s supposed to  be -16° (-27°) tomorrow. With wind.

New Zealand summer is looking extra-good. 13 days, 7 hours 8 minutes, 14 seconds to take-off. I’m ready.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

J’ai Deux Amours

It’s not particularly my beloved Paris, as Bogart says to Conrad Veidt in “Casablanca.” But we were talking about favorite cities last Friday evening, and one thing led to another—I’ve been listening to various performances of this ever since. It’s associated most closely with Josephene Baker, who either wrote it or had it written for her. DeeDee Bridgewater named an album after it. But this easygoing Madeleine Peyroux version is probably best known at the moment.

Not surprisingly, it’s most affecting in French. English translations lose a certain, uh,  je ne sais quoi. It would be a compliment to call my French truly lousy, but this is my version, which attempts to get the meaning, not necessarily the individual words or idioms, right. I’m not all that happy with the big black trees or “my ravished heart,” but I don’t do this for a living. And nobody in his right mind (I know, I know, it’s inevitable) would try to sing this song in English.

(I have seen a few performances—in French, but by Americans—that move the song from Paris music hall toward western swing: clippity clop, clippity clop, twang, twang. There are a few on YouTube. Weirdly wonderful. This is, after all, clearly a song written from the point of view of an American yearning to come to France.)

They say that over the sea,
Over there under the clear sky,
There’s a city where it’s enchanting to be.
And under the big black trees,
Every evening,
My spirit turns that way.

I have two loves—
My country and Paris.
By both of them
My heart is ravished.
Manhattan is beautiful,
But why deny it,
What puts a spell on me is Paris—
Paris in all its wonder.
Seeing it someday
Is my fondest dream.
I have two loves,
My country and Paris.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A good old-fashioned New England winter

I know it’s pretty cold out when my eyelashes freeze together. Happened this morning. My thermometer read about 6°F (-15 °C)  -6°F (-21°C). The only parts of me that felt uncomfortable, though, were my feet. Brashers aren’t cut out for this.

The snow here remains, and we’re all having trouble finding somewhere to put it. This is my driveway, now perhaps two-thirds its normal size.

And this is the Main Street sidewalk, nicely plowed.


Olden days

One of the “regrets” emails I got for the Boxing Day do came from a classmate who lived down the road when we were young children. She included this photo, which dates from 1957 or so. That’s her sister’s bike I’m riding for some reason.

It’s odd to see one’s self looking, not old, obviously, but what one can only call antique.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Many happy returns

I used to meet ladies occasionally who knew my father when they were all in their late teens. They would recognize my last name and ask me if I was my father’s son. When they got confirmation, ancient crushes would rise to the surface. It was always a breathy variation on the same theme: “Oh, he was so handsome ... and such a gentleman.”

I’ve seen the pictures, and he was handsome. (My late mother was extremely attractive, too, which tells you genetics doesn’t always work in a straight line. Mom herself once made a admiring comment to her mother-in-law about dad’s deportment was tartly told, “Of course he has good manners. He was raised at my table.”)

He’s 87 today. Still handsome. Still a gentleman. Still incapable of seeing anything but good in his friends and family. Still utterly, permanently, loudly, and forever unforgiving of anyone who has done any of us dirt. Still too cheap to hire someone to plow his driveway after a heavy snow (oh, my aching back!) But also still generous to a fault to others.

Happy birthday, Dad!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Shaggy B gets ears lowered

H was, I think, in med school before she got her hair cut by anyone but C. I’ve been a regular for 35 years or so, with only a few traveling exceptions and a once-a-decade nostalgic trim at Walt and Ernie’s No Shaves in Hanover. B, who got clipped while she was in town at Christmastime, may not be as faithful a client, but I’m sure the zebra sheet will remain available for her.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bigger than I thought

According to The Hartford Courant:
The swift and ferocious storm had dumped 28 inches of snow in
Woodbury by 12:30 p.m. which was the highest snow total in the state at that time, according to the National Weather Service.
 That’s us! And this evening my back has that 28-inches feeling.

Love and actually

I spent last week with H, A, and sweet B. It’s been cold in New Hampshire lately (what a surprise!), but I got out for one nice, if frigid, walk with daughter, granddaughter, and Jasper the Wonderdog.

B has, for some reason—possibly clunky boots—stopped wanting to walk on these outings, and now insists on being carried, either on mama’s back in the Ergo, or in arms. I, of course, mind terribly when I have to carry her, with all the hugging and kissing that entails.

She seems to have a quick ear, and experiencing her verbal development is a special delight. One evening, A headed downstairs to dig out a bottle for dinner. B asked me, “Where Dada go?”—a perfectly respectable two-year-old query. I took her over near the open door and pointed, “He went into the cellar to get some wine.” Pause. Wheels turning. Then a correction. “He go into basement, actually.”

Of course, most of all she likes to be turned upside down and swung between your legs.

Weather report

We’ve been having a bit of snow overnight and on through the day, blanketing the unmelted stuff from last week. Everything’s closed. No traffic. No walkers, even. Kind of pretty.

North side...

And south side...

I foresee some shoveling in my future. Hope I can find my snorkel.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


There was a surprise Kindle 3 under the tree this Christmas. I’ve built it a little protective sleeve.

There have been lots of reviews and reports about K3 on other walking blogs, but here’s the stuff I care about.
  1. The device is astonishingly compact, light and thin—far easier to carry and pack than a single book, let alone many.
  2. Its battery life is weeks and weeks.
  3. It holds enough reading material for a lifetime of vacations, business trips, waits at doctors’ offices, and afternoon tea-sipping. (Not to mention those tooth-brushing sessions during which turning the pages of a self-closing book with one hand while manipulating a vibrating Oral-B with the other is the closest I get to calisthenics these days.)
  4. Downloading is essentially instantaneous—and I really appreciate that you can download your own .pdf documents if you’ve created, say, lists or itineraries or notes for a remote conference call.
  5. Prices are fine, though it’s true I rarely quibble over the cost of book I really want.
  6. The reading experience is excellent—just like a book, really (Treasure Island, my first download—it’s free—was a treat, as usual)—though I prefer jotting notes (if any) in margins to doing the same thing electronically on a tiny keyboard
  7. As yet, no way to borrow library books for Kindle, though our library does lend ebooks for other formats. As a big lib-user, this is a drawback.
The overriding obvious for me is that K3 is an elegant alternative to the book duffel that usually accompanies the family on holiday (one 12x12x24 for each traveler, plus one more—jammed to bursting and weighing like gold ingots—for the books essential for loafing enjoyment), or those two or three tomes dropped heavily into the briefcase. For the constant, voracious reader who often travels with books, it’s a dream. New Zealand? Absolutely. And undoubtedly just about everywhere else.

24 days, 10 hours, 51 minutes, 6 seconds.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I’ve got the powa!

I’m slightly obsessed with my new Petzl Headlamp. It’s a Tikka XP2, which replaces a beloved old Zipka. It’s symbolically meaningful that the two lights were designed in different centuries. I loved my Zipka, with its cool little retractable headband, but it’s lost its (limited) oomph, is essentially worthless on the early-morning roads, and I thought it was probably time for something over one candlepower.

Tikka and Zipka lamps are identical, and I went for the Tikka configuration this time for two reasons: its traditional headband offers greater stability and comfort on the run, and it gives me the ability to pull the whole deal down around my neck as a temporary storage option. (I can pull the Zipka’s retractable string down around my neck, too, but it makes me feel like an Ottoman sultan struggling through his last few depressing seconds.)

Configured either way, the XP2 is a nice up-to-date headlamp, with multiple settings (Hi, Lo, Blink), a red-beam option for maintaining night vision as you grope for your pee bottle, and a little fresnel lense you can slide over the light to create a wider beam. Pretty cool, but not likely to excite my electrons.

It’s Petzl’s Core Rechargeable Battery that does that. More accurately, what I’ve been admiring for the last few days is Petzl’s OS, the free downloadable software that lets me control the Core. Using OS and the Core, you can create a regulated headlamp, one in which you specify the intensity of the beam the lamp puts out, which it holds for a known, inversely related, period of time, instead of gradually dimming to failure, which is what regulary batteries do. You can see roughly how this works on this screen shot.

This shows you that at full intensity, you get a beam that illuminates 40 meters ahead (about as far as the distance from home plate to second base, straight across the pitcher’s mound—a real boon to catchers trying to throw out runners in the dark) and the battery will need to be recharged after 4:30. As you adjust either the vertical output slider or the horizontal time to failure slider, the red line on the graph changes to illustrate the new reality, while the boxes at upper left and bottom center change to yield the new readings. You can create as many pre-set profiles for specific needs as you like. (As best I can tell, though you can recharge at any time by way of a USB cable, you can’t change to a different profile until you get back to the computer with your software on it.)

It’s presets I’m fiddling with at the moment. At 50 percent output, the values change to 28 meters and 9:45. At 25 percent, 20 meters and 19:00. At the minimum 4 percent, you get an 8 meter beam good for better than four days. (Petzl says the Core has been designed to be recharged 300 times, a lifetime it claims saves the use of 900 AAA alkaline batteries—a very good thing for multiple reasons.)

For running in the dark at my short distances, 100 percent is best, but for two weeks of hut-to-hutting in New Zealand’s summer, I’m pre-setting 60 percent, which gives me a more-than-adequate 31 meters (think from home to first) at an acceptable 7:45. Of course, I can always switch to battery-saving Lo at any time. And in a real pinch, I can remove the Core and go to three AAAs (these Petzls accept lithiums, unlike earlier models).

Here’s my quick chart of the Petzl power/time continuum:


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Test 2

Another mobile blog test. Here's a video from last week.

And a photo.

35 days, 9 hours, 53 minutes, 10 seconds.

I'd better get this stuff figured out.

- Mobile posting.