Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dangerous New Toy

I have a new toy and it's a dangerous one. I bought a Flip videocam and right now nobody is safe!

Warning: I stink at this. I am no budding videographer. I'm just a working writer who's found a brand new way to procrastinate.

Offered for your amusement:

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Friday, December 14, 2007

A Friday Night Moment

One of the first things I noticed about our neighborhood when we moved here in 1986 was that people decorated for the holidays. ALL of the holidays. Easter. Mother's Day. Valentine's Day. Thanksgiving. Halloween. Chanukah. And especially the Big Kahuna: Christmas. Okay, so maybe it was done with a wee bit more restraint than in our old neighborhood (where one enthusiastic home owner set up an ice machine that created a ten foot tall tower of ice on his front lawn and turned said lawn into Long Island's version of the Wollman Rink. Some of the neighbors grumbled about it but I have to admit his excess kind of charmed me. I'm twinkly white lights kind of outdoor decorator but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate big honkin' red and blue and green bulbs strung across a roofline or inflatable Santas with eight inflatable reindeer the size of bullmoose. Because I do.

One of the most charming and ubiquitous decorating trends in this part of New Jersey (and in many parts of eastern Pennsylvania, I've noticed) is the use of electric candles in the front windows. We break them out around Thanksgiving in our neighborhood and put them away after New Year's and for six weeks or so I feel like I live in a magical village from another century. (Okay, so maybe I'm being slightly hyperbolic but I'm a writer. I can't help myself.)

Anyway, I was futzing around with the candles in our living room window earlier this evening and I was having trouble making one of them stand up the way I wanted it to. I was working up a pretty good head of extremely annoyed steam when I finally decided to step outside, breathe some of the cool crisp almost-winter air, and take a look at the window from a different perspective.

It was almost dark. The sky was a beautiful shade of silvered mauve with a curved slice of moon rising overhead. I could smell woodsmoke from our neighbors' chimneys. Somewhere in the distance a train whistle sounded and I heard the unmistakable cries of a flock of geese heading homeward. I looked up and waited and seconds later was rewarded by the sight of over fifty Canada geese in a giant V formation heading toward the field a few blocks away. I held my breath as the formation shifted as they flew, one giant V turned into three smaller Vs, then an elongated wing shape, then melding seamlessly back into the original configuration, honking loudly the whole time.

I don't know what it was: the season, the beauty of the night, the fact that I get extremely emotional when I'm writing, but I started to cry. Nothing major. No shoulder-wracking sobs. Just a stream of tears I couldn't quite stop. I'm a kid from Queens whose bedroom window looked out on the railroad tracks forty feet away and I still can't believe I'm living a life that includes flocks of geese overhead, and rabbits in my back yard, and deer peering in my dining room window.

Lucky doesn't begin to cover it.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Garlic and Sapphires - Ruth Reichl

Garlic and Sapphires is Ruth Reichl's third memoir. This one is focused on her time as food critic for the New York Times and it's funny, fascinating, and compulsively readable.

True foodies don't think like the rest of us and they especially don't eat like us. Food, both preparation and eating, is a religious experience. Have you ever heard an oenophile describe a wine? An oenophile will taste butterscotch and raisins and a hint of cherry while the rest of us will wince and say, "Vinegar!" Reading Reichl's description of a truffle melting on her tongue delighted both the writer and the food lover in me.

The thing about Reichl is it's never just about food. She has a well-honed wit and a keen eye for the human condition and she never fails to make you stop and think about the world and your place in it. I loved Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me With Apples and am delighted to say that Garlic and Sapphires is every bit as wonderful. I can't wait to read about her Gourmet Magazine years.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007


Amazon's entry into the world of e-book readers is sitting right here next to me and twenty-four hours into the adventure, I'm still not sure what I think.

I've downloaded a number of books into it, lots of personal files. I've fiddled, tested, sampled. I'm going to write a full review very soon but right now here are some random thoughts.
1. Whispernet is phenomenal: content appears on your Kindle in seconds after purchase
2. Lightweight
3. 90,000 books available for download
4. Intuitive
5. Includes access to Wikipedia
6. QWERTY keyboard is a nice extra
1. Insanely over-priced
2. Paper-white screen? Not exactly. It's more like battleship grey.
3. Not backlit and it needs to be. You shouldn't have to purchase accessories to use a $400 ebook reader
4. Impossible to keep from flipping pages if you try to use the Kindle without the Kindle cover. The designers forgot to allow room for handling the damn thing!
5. I don't think the righthand NEXT bar will last long. Only 24 hours in and it's already starting to feel a little wonky to me
6. The sorting software is moody at best. Alphabetical sorting has been around a long time. It shouldn't be this fluky
7. My eyes felt strained after using it in medium light. This =shouldn't= be a problem
I have some serious problems with the Kindle but the truth is I devoured more words in 24 hours than I have in the past 24 days. I'm gobbling them up like Christmas cookies. Maybe they really are on to something after all.

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