Friday Shorts

image copyright Fred First
* Coldest day of the year so far, but a dry cold, and though I will have to start warming up the car at 7 to get to work by 8, I think I’ll get there just fine. I left the house yesterday in a blizzard, gambling that it was just a brief, intense snow shower. Five minutes later, I was driving in sunshine under a cobalt blue sky.

* I have been approved for Google AdSense, and still undecided what to do. Would be nice to recoup at least the cost of the monthly DSL by some (hopefully tasteful and unobtrusive) ads on the periphery of the blog page. I’ve resisted going this route now for almost five years (anniversary of FFF actually in March) and can cancel out after a few months if it isn’t an acceptable fit. This, just in the way letting you know the blog may change in subtle ways soon. Or not. We’ll see.

* Hey man, why don’t we get wasted and do an interpretive dance of protein synthesis? Maybe only a biologist would get such a kick from this YouTube presentation of a noble laureate in a tighty whitey dress shirt and thin seventies-type tie narrate as several hundred UCDavis college students play the role of messenger RNA, ribosomes and such. What a hoot (at least for me.)

* And here are two images that I found worth a look: a bike “eaten” by a tree (thanks Pablo) and something in our child rearing years I neglected to ever do with duct tape.

* The image above–which has absolutely nothing to do with any of the above topics–was taken a few days ago from the logging road that winds through the steep immature pine forest behind the house. Now this would be a great place to use that panorama function with the camera. And if this isn’t done in the near future, there will be no view from back there. The pines are quickly filling in the vistas, as I describe in Slow Road Home in the piece called “Succession”.

Now, I better go put on my Friday shorts (and don’t forget the pants!) and get to work.

Friday Fragments

image copyright Fred First
Yes, this is the same old apple tree that appeared a few days ago in a more artsy black and white impression. The lichens that decorate its dying branches give it a kind of surreal luminance and false life.

* We both had meetings last night. We didn’t go. Within ten minutes, the walkway and the footbridge over the branch iced over about 7:00, and our decision to stay home from our 7:30 meetings in Floyd and Elliston was confirmed: they can meet without us. This morning, temps have risen and the threat of black ice is not zero but it is much lower than I’d feared. Ah yes, this is what winter travel feels like. I can’t say I’m sorry it waited to visit until mid-January this year.

* I feel like I’ve recovered from a chronic illness. First, every time I’d close an Explorer (XP) window, MSIE7 would pop up. It was maddening. In the end, I disabled tabs in that browser, and that problem disappeared. Then (for the past two weeks) about once a minute, it was if I’d hit Alt-Tab, and in the middle of a browser session, the Excel spreadsheet I had been working on would pop up, then the Word document, then back to a different Firefox tab. It seemed possibly related to the browser, so I uninstalled FF 1.5, installed FF 2.0, and I have my computer back from the hijackers! (Sigh: the Tiny Url extension doesn’t work in FF2.)

* With the above-mentioned problems, it made little difference to me that Citizens Internet had doubled the speed of our DSL (for the same price) on January 1. With my program switching problems and general sluggishness that went with it, my new 1.5Mbps connection made little difference. Now, we be jammin’!

* Okay. Excuse me but I need to cut this short. The dog has requested that I stop dawdling and finish the last few bites of cereal. (He can tell and only jumps up when the bowl makes sounds of a certain frequency as it approaches emptiness.) He never expects Ann’s cereal bowl, but the spoonful of milk and single tiny fruit in my bowl seems to be his “raisin d’etre” (sic). So I shouldn’t keep him waiting.

Those Look Lyke Cumftubble Shoes

Granted, I didn’t know where I was going yesterday afternoon. Originally, the meeting was scheduled for the Winston Link Museum, but nobody there knew anything about it. A phone call found out that the writers’ meeting had been rescheduled for the art museum three quarters of a mile away, in the center of downtown Roanoke. As problematic as parking would be, I’d walk, thank you.

But no, actually it was not at the art museum but around the corner another few blocks at the Center on Church. And so I paid the penalty of being a half hour late, and only after the meeting was over, as I began to walk the mile and a half back to the car, did I realize I also had paid the penalty that a country boy pays when he walks fast on city streets and sidewalks in his prissy dress shoes–fine for standing about but not so good on pavement.

My shins were so sore after the meeting that I had to walk on my heels all the way back to the car. And yes, they are even more sore this morning. Call me R2D2.

On my way home from Roanoke, I stopped by to see an elderly gentleman I had learned about from a local minister at a party. The man’s wife of almost 70 years and died recently, and the minister, knowing that I was interested in local stories, described this gentleman is being a master storyteller and in some considerable need of company just now. My intention was just to stop by and introduce myself to him, bedridden and living with relatives at the foot of the mountain.

Instead, I spent almost an hour there–only maybe 15 minutes of that with my recorder on, with his permission of course. I haven’t reviewed it yet. I’d like to think I would go back and hear much more of what he has to tell about life in Floyd County in the 30s and 40s. I at least need to get what I have onto the hard drive today and then send it on a CD to his family, who have never been able to get this man’s life to paper or other permanent recording. Pity, the loss when these old treasures are gone.

By the time I got home it was already dark. My camera and lens had come (I was almost too exhausted to care) but only be after the sun comes up this morning will I be able to do anything to test the combo, now that the batteries are charged and everything is ready to go. The D200 sure feels good in the hand!

I have waded into an online users guide for the camera that is quite excellent, making recommendations about some of the custom settings and explaining some of the more arcane aspects of this extensively–tweakable camera.

It is a little unsettling to be near the bottom of the learning curve again, after the D70 had become so familiar. But it’s a little exciting, too. And I’m up to my hip waders in taking notes, so apologies for this blah blah post. Maybe I can get an image up later today–from the new camera-lens combo, of course!

Wimpy Winter

image copyright Fred First

No, this isn’t from THIS so-called winter. We did get a skiff of snow yesterday, and there might be a trace of white this morning when the sun comes up. But so far, even though we’re 200% of normal moisture for the year, it hasn’t been in the form of ice or snow this time ’round. I was just wandering through my image archives (wondering how to make room on the hard drive for larger images to come) and liked this one.

Air Time
Thanks to Wilma Synder for reviewing Slow Road in her regular About Books segment on Wytheville Radio Station WXBX this Thursday. You can read her short review here.

If you have a Nikon camera (which the movie narrator pronounces Knee-Cone, I suppose, in the more Japanese-correct way) you’ll want to stop by and watch the tutorial that may introduce you to features of your camera you’ve forgotten about or never really understood. Their Digitutor (after you get past the name that conjures up all sorts of images for me) is really quite helpful for newbies like I will be to the D200, which by the way, arrives TODAY!

Did you hear about this November (but only recently widely public) UFO sighting at Chicago’s O’Hare airport? This BlogCritics writer wonders what gives with the failure to produce definitive answers, or to even ask the questions.

Print As Needed
My choice (thanks, Bob) to go with digital printing as my option for future SRH needs has given me the advantage of being able to have books available when needed without depleting my business bank account. So, I’ve managed to work on that outcome instead by ordering the camera and lens and letting the photography take center-stage, outlay-wise. Here’s a good overview of the economics of Print on Demand for any of you considering getting your book between covers.

Self-cleaning underwear?
Knew a guy in college who, instead of being bothered by washing his skivvies, simply gave them a spritz of Lysol every week or so. This clip is for him:

“Self-cleaning fabrics could revolutionize the sport apparel industry. The technology, created by scientists working for the U.S. Air Force, has already been used to create t-shirts and underwear that can be worn hygenically for weeks without washing.

The new technology attaches nanoparticles to clothing fibers using microwaves. Then, chemicals that can repel water, oil and bacteria are directly bound to the nanoparticles. These two elements combine to create a protective coating on the fibers of the material.

This coating both kills bacteria, and forces liquids to bead and run off.”

And So It Goes

“Ann, you should see some of the great suggestions Fragments readers are offering for the lead-in and byline fade-out for the radio essay” I told her yesterday morning.

“Like what?” she wanted to know.

“Well, like Stranger on the Shore. It’s such a haunting…”

“No! That comes from my brother’s era, not ours. I don’t want to be dated any older than I already am!” And so the search took on a new twist, with acceptable tunes only within a narrow window of time (not yet negotiated) though I argued (if she would just read the piece again) that the essay was about “the times” both before and after we graduated from high school, so that the exact year was less important than the emotional weight the music would lend to the piece. Venus. Mars. In separate orbits of course.

But then later in the day, it no longer mattered. An email from the radio station said the piece (which I figured was destined to air sometime in the spring) would be up on Dec 22 (this Friday!) and due to time constraints, they had to select something instrumental and get it uploaded and done.

And so, as you can hear, the piece ends with some music that is pleasant enough, but lends nothing to the memory of the times. I’m sorry about that. But it was fun “producing” this piece with your great suggestions. Heck. I may just have to download the radio file and splice in my own intro–WITH musical bookends: intro maybe the instrumental organ leadin to Whiter Shade of Pale; fade out: last bars of Floyd Cramer’s Last Date. Hmmm….

Meanwhile, if you’re interested, catch the little reunion tale real-time broadcast on WVTF this Friday morning, or listen to the unreal-time mp3 file here. The Way We Were / An Essay by Fred First

This was fun. Thanks, all.