Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Dress Code

The smiles and waves say it's unlikely that this group gathered at a funeral.

So -- what other event prompted such consistent dress?

Monday, July 30, 2007


At a SETI Institute ("Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence") listening post, devices constantly monitor the air for evidence of alien signal transmissions.

To date, they haven't found evidence of aliens ... but what might they have found out about your next-door neighbors?

[Photo from Opentopia.]

Friday, July 27, 2007

Taking Leave

In the sobfest that is "The Way We Were," Hubbell Gardner breaks up with Katie Morosky and leaves her apartment key on the table.

But keys are exchanged in matters other than romantic relationships, and their return doesn't always have to be sad.

Why not twist it -- and imagine a situation where the return marks an all-out celebration.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Emotional Distance

Several people have recently expressed awe over health-care workers’ ability to keep an emotional distance from their patients and their patients’ families.

I don’t remember receiving formal training in that objectivity -- other than via medicine’s many analyses and algorithms, which, I suppose, do help to keep things fairly well up in the intellect and away from the emotions of doctors and others.

It’s similar, I suppose, to the choreography of the uniformed officer who strode to the gravesite last Saturday and retrieved the folded American flag from atop my father-in-law’s casket. He brought it to my mother-in-law and stooped toward her. His voice was clear and even: “On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation, this flag is presented as a token of appreciation for your husband’s honorable and faithful service to his country.” He straightened to full height, took one step backward and raised his hand in a long salute to the flag.

Then he turned left-face and strode away, generating a breeze that made my cheek damp.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


New Scientist magazine calls this Alex MacLean photo (of approximately 200 houses outside South Jordan, Utah) an "exurban" development, "driven by the American dream of owning a detached house with a large backyard."

Um, that's all? -- a house with a yard? The isolation seems extreme, there's gotta be more to it. What else is going on here??

For more amazing aerial photos by MacLean, check out "Designs on the Land" and "The Playbook".

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Saw this photo of Sao Paolo, Brazil in an issue of New Scientist magazine.

It begs for a writer to choose a couple characters from the wildly different domiciles -- then put them together in a romance ... in a workplace ... in a courtroom.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Running of the Waiters

Tomorrow's running of the bulls ("El Encierro" -- run daily during the July 7-14 Fiesta de San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain) ...

has nothing ... over the procession of cruise waitstaff on Baked Alaska night!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Squirrel Lady

Forget about personifying animals with human qualities -- humans who act like animals are much more interesting!

As I walked home with a latte this morning, a woman came out of her house to get the newspaper from where it had been delivered on her lawn. Too far away to comfortably say hello, I closed my eyes and tipped my latte to take a sip; when I opened my eyes, she'd disappeared!

I glanced at the door to her house but really, there's no way she’d had enough time to hurry back inside. By then, I'd taken some more steps -- and there she was, nearby but behind the trunk of a big elm. I wasn’t sure what she was doing, but in another step or two, I figured she'd be in sight again, and we could exchange niceties. Yet as I took those steps, so did she -- just like a squirrel that moves itself around a tree trunk to keep just out of sight.

I gave up, but when I turned the corner some seconds later, I did glance back. She’d emerged from around the far side of the tree and was walking toward the door to her house.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Happy 231st, USA!

And what better way to celebrate than the deletion of the American Bald Eagle from the Endangered Species List.

I snapped the photo of this snazzy, tuxedoed parent and its three, nine-week-old nestlings from my PC screen.

You can view live streaming video of the now-flying, four-month-old chicks (plus lots of archived photos) at the Norfolk Botanical Garden's Eaglet Nest-cam.

Monday, July 2, 2007


I've seen and heard and used the acronyms ASAP ("as soon as possible") and PDQ ("pretty damn quick"; in fact, my favorite childhood chocolate-milk mix was PDQ granules -- which did dissolve instantly).

And I've heard another phrase that means "right away," but hadn't used it myself -- (whew) -- or even seen it written until a few weeks ago, when an editor copied me on an email in which she asked that something be sent to me "tout de suite."

Ack! -- I hadn't known the phrase was French, and was intensely ashamed at whatever ignorance had led me to imagine it as "toot sweet." But I felt a little better after some research, where I learned that English-speaking soldiers had anglicized it to exactly that during WWI.

I emailed the editor and thanked her for the best thing I'd learned that week. She responded that it was nothing -- it was the writers whose emails and manuscripts included "wa-la!" (um, "voila") that surprised her.