Eco-Friendlier House & Household

Things to do once we move:

1. Replace as many lightbulbs as possible with eco-friendly fluorescents.
2. Buy a composter and use it!
3. Find a substitute for the little plastic bags we use for Jane's lunches.
4. Look into rooftop solar panels (for next year).
5. Assess transportation needs. Do we need a new car? What about a bicycle? A jogging stroller?
6. Plant new trees to replace the rotten ones we had to cut down (sigh).
7. Call National Grid and switch from coal-generated electricity to something greener.
8. Assess cost & environmental impact of window A/C units versus a new compressor. Last summer we only needed A/C for the two really hot weeks in July/August. But window units aren't especially efficient.
9. Do a better job shopping at local farmers' markets & using local CSA offerings...
10. Find ways to minimize the non-recyclable content of food packaging (e.g., coffee, frozen foods) and recycle or reuse the rest, especially the plastic containers


Breakfast With Jane

I am one-third of the way through my first cup of coffee when Jane announces: "Cinderella isn't real."

"No. She's just a story."

"When I turn five, I want to visit Cinderella's castle."

When I hear "I want," I think: Run Default Child Deferral Module #244: "We'll see."

I don't think anymore. I just reflexively "parent." Jane calls this "mommying."

"But she's not real."

"Who's not real?" The coffee is slow to kick in this morning.


"Oh! Of course. I guess if she's not real, her castle isn't either."

"No." Jane twirls her hair. "That gives me an idea."


"It starts with Once upon a time..."


The Pitcher Inn, VT

Architect David Sellers, proprietor of The Pitcher Inn has taken old home restoration to a whole other level. The old structure is still mostly the same. But each guest room has been decorated to the teeth according to a various Vermont themes, from skiing to Chester Arthur. This place is definitely not the W, where the place is designed primarily to disappear while you're in it. Rather, the idea is, apparently, to inhabit someone else's extremely well-kitted out fantasy for a while.

Which has something to do with shopping. On the Pitcher Inn's web site, there's a blurb from some travel writer who remarked that staying at the Pitcher Inn was like "staying inside the J. Peterman catalogue."

On the other hand, if you feel like it, you can buy the furniture at the W, too.


Used Books Are Nice

Jane is flipping through my latest purchase, Roger Chartier's The Order of Books: Readers, Authors, and Libraries in Europe Between the 14th and 18th Centuries.

She points to a page on which the book's previous owner underlined a sentence in pencil. "There's writing in it."

"It's a used book," I tell her. "That's part of the charm."

"Used books are nice," she says after a moment. "They remind you of other people."

My Funny French Tutor

"Mom, do you know what ma cherie means?"

"Of course not, ma cherie. What does it mean?"

"It means ... little cabbage."



"The truth is that I have always hated the Viennese coffeehouses because in them I am always confronted with people like myself, and naturally I do not wish to be confronted with people like myself, and certainly not in a coffeehouse, where I go to escape myself. " -- Thomas Bernhard, Wittgenstein's Nephew


I love Off the Map, a presentation (by PBS) of paradises made by everyday people. The web site is just like the works themselves - there's lots to pick up and play with.

Much transformation, also, of discarded stuff by curation - putting the item into an orderly context. The presence of order - just that - lends a meaningful aura to the object. These sites start with trash, discards, junk - but they are not junkyards.

(Note to self: compare with Vanessa Bell's Charleston house and Purcell's book about Owl's Head. Later: Also, My House, My Shack. Different ideas of home, of the "personal," the "intimate," and the relationship of all these concepts to some transcendent ideal, or paradise.)

Below: the book as termite paradise (identified, isolated, photographed and curated by Rosamond Purcell into an accidental work of art):

On the OTM web site, you can even make your own "backyard paradise".

Click 'n drag sure beats planning, sweat and aggravation, plus no heavy lifting and no bugs.


Exercise for a Workaholic With a Desk Job

Before I began to write in a serious way, I had a block of free time most days between morning coffee and work, and another between work and dinner. When I could, I used that time for exercise. But starting in 1999, I began to use those blocks for writing.

So for years now I have been trying to figure out how to fit regular exercise into my schedule. MIT professor Henry Jenkins has a great idea: Exercise while you work!

"My doctor wanted me to exercise. I knew I would never do it since it would take time away from work. So I decided to integrate it into my professional life. I now have walking office hours. I will take a student or colleague with me on the two mile walk around the Charles I take most days, weather permitting. It both insures that I get my exercise and that I get to know the people I work with better."

This practice has an added benefit that Jenkins notes but doesn't emphasize - it's also a way to work in some socializing. Instead of going for coffee, why not take a walk? Hmm...


Paula Scher's Diagram of a Blog

Could also be the diagram of an academic Q&A. In any case, a sad vision of the online so-called life of the mind. So-called.