Monthly Archives: May 2010

My Gizmo Aversion

Looks fun, but no thanks.

“You don’t have an iPod?!”

Just as he said it, I could tell he regretted sounding so judgy. I go through most of my weeks trying not to mention this fact for this very reason. It’s so awkward. But he had asked point blank (“Well you have an iPod of course, right?”) and there was nowhere else to go.

“I’ll tell you some time about my Gizmo Rule. I try to limit them.”

One of us then deftly switched subjects.

But back to that Gizmo Rule. This was the first time I had put it in exactly that way. And it’s true. I pretty much have a Ten-Gizmo Rule:

1. Telephone (land line) (1)

2. Telephone (cell) (1)

3. Sound system (a.k.a. stereo) (2)

4. LCD Television with built-in DVD player (1)

5. Laptop (MacBook Pro) (1)

6. Digital camera (1)

7. Toaster oven (1)

8. Electric toothbrush (1)

9. Electric pencil sharpener (1)

10. Blender (1)

11. Electric coffee-bean grinder (1)

12. Printer (1)

Notice I haven’t quite made it to 10, but I should mention I barely ever use the bean grinder and my electric toothbrush is broken.

Notice what’s missing. A microwave, for one. An iPhone. An electric can opener. A Cuisinart. A second telephone, a second TV. Notice that the size of most of these things means I cannot carry them around and lose them to great expense and inconvenience. The majority can’t easily be replaced by manual efforts (exceptions: toothbrush, coffee bean grinder, pencil sharpener and possibly blender, but I’d like to see you try making a smoothie by hand). (And OK so it’s a slim majority.)

Someday, I’d like to get the number below 10. I am thinking of ditching my land line, despite my sentimental attachment to a phone number I’ve had since 1994.

Here are the reasons I limit my Gizmos:

1.Instruction manuals.

2. Energy use (fossil fuels versus my own)

3. Less to lose or forget.

4. Less to dust or break.

5. Fewer ways to get duped into spending money on additional gizmo accessories I never thought I’d need or want.

6. More time left for the gizmos I already have.

7. More time left for reading things that are not instruction manuals.

8. Will it make my life better? If not, why should I add another thing to the landfill?

9. Since PCs and laptops were introduced to the world, virtual gizmos have become inevitabilities, so why add more real ones?

10. Remember 8-track tapes?

This is NOT an eco- thing or a green thing (though that factors into my thinking). It’s an acknowledgment that adding things to my life does not necessarily add value to my life.

How do I define “gizmo?” Excellent question! That’s another post. I gotta go practice hand-grinding my coffee beans now.

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Image: Serra w/umbrella

Serra, umbrella, St. Louis, rainy day

A few weekends back I visited my dear friend Marilu in St. Louis. I had never been to St. Louis before. I love the experience of exploring a new place. This is my favorite photo from the weekend. It was taken in the back yard of The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, from inside a Richard Serra sculpture there. The sculpture was commissioned as part of the building’s design, and Serra collaborated with architect Tadao Ando. These guys are art-world rock stars, and as art-world rock stars go they I put them in a category of people who have earned the awe that surrounds them. It was an overcast, rainy day, hence the umbrella. I always love the experience of walking into one of Serra’s spirals, which compress space, reorient the horizon (hey, where is the horizon anymore?), disorient their visitors while tantalizing them. The feeling I am most reminded of hearkens to childhood, when I’d find a secret space. A path in the woods, perhaps. Or a mysterious attic. When fascination could easily trump fear, because I knew too little to envision what kind of danger might be around the corner. I almost feel like that walking through one of Serra’s spirals.

I walked into the middle, looked up, then turned to wait for Marilu and her umbrella to arrive, and then I snapped this image.

Postscript: It’s been a Very Serra Spring, because I also visited a Serra on the campus of Princeton University recently. And this is where I have to publicly apologize for touching the Serra, which Marilu scolded me about. Of course she runs a sculpture park. And I would never argue with her, she’s too tough.

"The Hedgehog and the Fox" and me

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OMG morels!

Before saute and saturation process

Friends of mine were gifted with these morels and were kind enough to invite me over to share. This is generosity of a rare kind. We sauteed them in lots of butter and a bit of finely diced onions (shallots were not available), added half and half, and then poured the yummy mess over linguine. Heaven!

Coincidentally, I had just been visiting Mt. Zion (more on why another time), which is just down the road from Muscoda, which is Wisconsin’s Morel Capital, at peak morel time, which means in theory I should have spotted one for sale. I didn’t. But I did try searching for them in the wooded areas near my lodgings, and realized quickly that I am a rank amateur in the morel-hunting business. I think it’s something I may need to learn, someone told me they are going for $49 a pound. Oy.

The Muscoda Morel Festival is this weekend, maybe I need to go!

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Filed under Appetite, Obsessions

Office supply geekout: Bookmarks

This is brilliant. Grass-blade book markers by a company called Yuruliki Design. At first I asked myself: Would a person mark that many pages? But then I think of all the passages I circled in “The Sand County Almanac” and the blades become a way of marking favorite moments. Nice.

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Filed under Books, Office Supplies

I heart office supplies

I would rather browse through an Office Depot than a jewelry store or a chocolate shop. It’s true and I am proud of it. Some might think I save a lot of money and calories this way, and that’s probably right, but let me tell you an Office Supply Habit can put a dent in a girl’s budget and exercise routine.

But I digress.

I plan to spend more time writing about Office Supplies in this blog, but first I want to share my top 10 list of Office Supply Cravings.

Aren't they beautiful? (Faber-Castell photo)

1. A recently sharpened pencil with a fresh eraser. Not the mechanical kind.

2. Good-quality binders in interesting colors and designs. Must have pockets.

3. Desk organizers, subset: file holders. Molded plastic does not count.

4. Desk organizers, subset: things with drawers. Molded plastic might be acceptable.

5. A Sharpie. Color and size of point varies by mood and necessity.

6. A Pica Pole, a.k.a. Line Gauge. (Once upon a time I would have included a Proportion Wheel, and if you know what I’m talking about you probably know why.)

7. Anything you can tack a note, photo or reminder to. Bulletin boards included.

8. Boutique file folders, the shamelessly impractical expensive kind printed with beautiful patterns and colors.

9. Binder inserts that zip or snap for additional storage.

10. A tie between Post-It Notes and Boxes that somehow do exactly what you need them to in exactly the space you need them to fit into. The box thing is a bad craving to have, because you can never really stop searching. Or needing.

Binders by Outblush.

In upcoming posts I will explore my Top 10.5 in more depth, post some Office Supply Porn (you’ll love the new green organizer collection I found!), examine the deep-rooted needs underlying my obsession, and more.

Meanwhile, if anyone’s reading …

What’s in your Top Ten?


Filed under Obsessions, Office Supplies

Everyone deserves to sit in a chair like this

I was visiting Princeton in March. The weather was beautiful, and we toured the campus. The Gehry-designed science library was a stop on our tour and I snapped a photo of these chairs as viewed through an interior window. I covet these chairs. I fantasize about working in a place where you can sit in these chairs to read, think, talk. Everyone looks beautiful and happy in them. Why don’t more people have chairs like these? I guess because they don’t have bajillion-dollar endowments like Princeton has. Sigh.

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Filed under Images, Musings

It’s book club morning

I am in a wonderful book club, one that deserves better from me. We are now reading “A Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold, and I woke up early this morning to catch up. It’s a sad fact that I haven’t finished a book club book in more than a year, and so far this one isn’t likely to be an exception. However, I am (again) thankful to my clubmates for giving me a reason to read something wonderful, however sluggishly I’m doing it.

I want to share a few things I’ve circled so far.

Reflecting upon the eagerness of a trout to take the bait, and of a fisherman to cast it:  How like fish we are: ready, nay eager, to seize upon whatever new thing some wind of circumstance shakes down upon the river to time! And how we rue our haste … Even so, I think there is some virtue in eagerness, whether its object prove true or false. How utterly dull would be a wholly prudent man, or trout, or world!

Reflecting on the irony of killing off wolves to protect the deer, which in turn means large swaths of defoliation: Too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run.

And this one needs no set-up: … all conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.

Aldo’s prose strikes me as old-fashioned in a wonderful way (he died in 1948 and the first of these essays were published a year later).  It has the effect of being very much of its time, and also respectful of its topic. The natural world — be it a pristine lagoon in the Delta of the Colorado or bird poop on a Wisconsin farm — is elevated through a more formal (to our modern ears) language, and I’m transported to a more slow-moving moment in the history of language and syntax.

Change came more gradually then, but Aldo’s writings explain that it was sudden in the greater context of the natural world.

*  *  *

I won’t belabor the point about Wisconsin’s pokey springs. They put us through an annual agony. I’ll just fast-forward to the fact that the temperature went above 80 (!) yesterday, a stunning development in May for these parts. Between errands, I took my car through Estabrook Park. Trees were coming into leaf (as opposed to promising it for weeks) and some of them were in bloom (as opposed to bud). As the road curved gently through this new green and pink and white, and as I felt the sensation, for the first time in six months, of an open window, my eyes teared up. This is a little embarrassing to admit.

How must it have felt, then, for Aldo Leopold to take his canoe down a wild river in the 1930s, when “wild” meant something more true to its meaning?

I’ve been thinking about that all morning and can’t shake the feeling of loss.

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Filed under Books