Thursday, March 30, 2006


This time of year, in wet spots, vernal pools, swamps, and marshes, it is time for the baby frogs to hatch out and start singing. I absolutely simply love driving home on a warm spring evening with the windows open, driving past a wet bit, and hearing the peepers. Simply love it.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Woods sounds

Yesterday, I took the big walk, about 7 miles through the woods behind my house. I live about 15 miles from downtown Boston, and it amazes and delights me that I can walk out my back door directly into 600 acres of parkland, forests, and fields. There's immense development pressure on this land, so it's not clear how long this treasure will last, but every day that it's there and that I can walk in it is a special, simple, wonderful day.

On my walk yesterday, I heard some of my favorite woods sounds. When you're in or near a stand of high oaks or beeches, the sound of the wind blowing through the tops of the trees creates a distant, lonely sound. A quiet sound that you can't really hear if you're with another person.

The trees behind my house, and those along my neighbor's field, is home to a red tailed hawk. He is beautiful to see, soaring in endless loops over the field, but his harsh, innocent call is terrifying and stark.

Finally, as I was coming home, I heard a hairy woodpecker tapping away in a tree in my back yard.

I had trouble locating him, but with patience I noticed a dead limb in the tree, and there he was.

The sounds of the woods. Something simple that I like.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Yesterday was the vernal equinox. The longer days creep up so slowly that you hardly notice. But I love waking up at 5:30 and having the sky already glowing with light. And I like being able to drive home in the light.

My nemesis, Daylight Savings Time, appears soon. But for the moment, we morning folk have the upper hand.

A wonderful poem from W.S. Merwin, again heard on The Writer's Almanac and reproduced here without permission.

I am looking at trees
they may be one of the things I will miss
most from the earth
though many of the ones I have seen
already I cannot remember
and though I seldom embrace the ones I see
and have never been able to speak
with one
I listen to them tenderly
their names have never touched them
they have stood round my sleep
and when it was forbidden to climb them
they have carried me in their branches

Monday, March 20, 2006

The house

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Bruder trucks

Bruder makes the best toy trucks out there. They play well. They're full of clever design touches, like booms and jibs that articulate like the real thing. Little pumps on the fire trucks. My son has five Bruder trucks:

The MAN crane truck:

The ladder fire truck:

The MAN dump truck:

The JCX backhoe/loader:

And the Schaeff mini-excavator:

I love these trucks, because the people who designed and manufactured them really care about the equipment.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Trappist preserves

It can be tough to go food shopping. Most of the processed food available in this country is manufactured by large corporations who are mostly interested in how much profit they can make. A few years ago, I decided to try to keep as much partially hydrogenated fat and high-fructose corn syrup as possible out of my diet.

One item that met my criteria, and which is also delicious and locally produced, is Trappist Preserves from Saint Joseph's Abbey, a monastery of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance ("Trappists") in Spencer, Massachusetts.

Every time I'm in the grocery store, I appreciate finding that small island of simplicity and tradition.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


The roads around here are coated with a gritty, salty, layer of slime. A nice steady bit of rain, as we are having now, is wonderful at starting to wash away a winter's worth of dirt. I like walking in the rain too. The sound of the rain on the leaves is just a wonderful background sound.

Other simple things that I like today:
  • I'm continuing to recover from a bout of back pain
  • I haven't caught the nasty bugs that have laid low the rest of the folks who live here
  • The newspaper got delivered before 4:00 AM, so I could read the Journal over breakfast
  • Did I mention that my back doesn't hurt as much today as it did yesterday?
A wonderful poem, by Louis Jenkins, heard on the Writer's Almanac:
Every fall before he goes to sleep a bear will put away five or six
hundred dollars. Money he got from garbage cans, mostly. Peo-
ple throw away thousands of dollars every day, and around here
a lot of it goes to bears. But what good is money to a bear? I
mean, how many places are there that a bear can spend it? It's a
good idea to first locate the bear's den, in fall after the leaves are
down. Back on one of the old logging roads you'll find a tall pine
or spruce covered with scratch marks, the bear runes, which
translate to something like "Keep out. That means you!" You can
rest assured that the bear and his money are nearby, in a cave or
in a space dug out under some big tree roots. When you return
in winter, a long hike on snowshoes, the bear will be sound
asleep. ... In a month or two he'll wake, groggy, out of sorts,
ready to bite something, ready to rip something to shreds ... but
by then you'll be long gone, back in town, spending like a
drunken sailor.

Used without permission, I'm sorry to say.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

When it all comes together

  • I'm feeling the best this morning I've felt in five days.
  • The Bahrain GP was an excellent, exciting race. Great driving from Kimi and an astonishing debut from Nico Rossberg. Closely fought to the finish, the race augers well for an exciting 2006 season.
  • The boy elected to sleep in, so my wife and I could watch the whole race (nearly) live
  • Comcast DVR meant that we could skip most of the commercials, simply by virtue of pausing the video while we had breakfast
  • A crispy fresh Sunday New York Times waiting on the front step

Sunday morning. A simple thing that I like.

It's racing season!

This morning is the first race of the 2006 Formula One season.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Grinding pain, day four (2)

Actually, the simple thing that I like today is getting to spend a whole day watching my wife and son going about their daily routines. Normally, I see them in the morning and at night, which are not their best times of day, respectively.

What a joy. What a lot of work. Having a family. A simple thing that I love.

Grinding pain, day four (1)

So it's hard to find something happy to think about on the fourth day home sick. Lemons? Lemonade? Whatever...

As jobs go, I've got a pretty good one. I'm able to sit for long enough today to actually get some work done. My boss has thoughtfully provided me with a laptop computer to use at home when I'm not able to come to work. The laptop runs a software VPN client that I can use to tunnel over my home 802.11g network to the network at the office. Once connected, I typically just log into my desktop PC using Windows Remote Desktop. Even though I'm using Comcast's cheapest 4MB service, I still get enough bandwidth to run graphics-intensive applications such as InDesign and Illustrator.

So that's a simple thing that I like: Having a job with the flexibility to work at home when I'm sick.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Feeling better

Today, the simple thing that I like is that I'm not hurting quite so much. That makes everything look a little better.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Sick day

Despite the fact that I am in grinding pain

a simple thing that I like is a sick day. Or two. Or three.

Expectations are low, and I have an excuse for not doing anything productive. Like this.

On balance, feeling good is better. But if you don't, it's a simple thing that I like to not be at work.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Porsche Ramble

It was a beautiful day today, and the boy and I took advantage of it by taking a Porsche ramble. This involves getting in the Porsche and going for a drive to nowhere in particular. It had been months since I'd had the car out, and it didn't want to start at first. I had to bring the other car into the garage and give it a jump start before it would go.

We drove back and forth across the river several times before our meandering took us to the local community farm, where we walked around looking at the animals. We saw two cows, a sheep, the bunnies, the chickens, and a grey puppy.

A nice ramble.

The boy

My son turns three tomorrow. He is wonderful, cute, affectionate, smart, active, happy, sad, and simply amazing. And he gives me a window into my own childhood so many years ago. Here he is, wearing a sweater of mine and playing with his new crane.

When I was three, my parents and I were living in Tübingen Germany, and I was wearing that sweater and playing with my own toy crane.

Something simple that fills me with joy, not just makes me happy. My son.

The big walk

Today was the nicest day of 2006. Clear blue sky, sunshine, not too cold, and not windy. I took advantage of this by dragging my friend Horace on the "big walk". This means walking out my back door, and taking the trail network all the way south to the hunt club, then crossing over to some meadow land around a pond, then back through the marsh. It's about 7 or 8 miles and takes a good two hours, especially if you detour to the market to pick up the paper.

I love a big walk, because you walk, talk, and think yourself out.

When I lived in Jamaica Plain, I called the big walk the "Jamaica Plain death march." I would walk from my house all the way around Jamaica Pond, then down the Jamaicaway to the Arboretum, then go up and down both Peters and Bussey hill in the Arb, then back home.

The biggest big walk I've ever taken was a 17 mile trek from Newton through Wellesley and Dover to Medfield. The big walk in JP that I never took was to summit the five hills of JP: Jamaica Hill, Bussey Hill, Peters Hill, Moss Hill, and the hill at Larz Anderson park. I kind of miss JP .

Anyway, the big walk is something simple that I really, really like.


I recently got a second PowerBook and I created a second disk image file on my firewire server disk and placed a copy of SuperDuper on the new PowerBook so that I could do my wireless network backup.

When I was first getting SuperDuper running, I had trouble getting it to automount the network drive. I created this elaborate scheme where I would open a settings document on the PowerBook through an alias on the server (because I couldn't put the SuperDuper! settings document in the server because it is a package, and some of the filenames weren't compatible with the Windows box serving the disk).

But it turned out that none of that was needed. A properly configured and scheduled SuperDuper! backup will properly mount a network disk.

So all I really needed to do was configure the PowerBooks to wake up 1 minute before the scheduled backup.

Now, if I want to back up a PowerBook, I simply leave the lid up when I go to bed (a PowerBook will not wake up with the lid closed, unless it's connected to an external monitor). The backup just happens.

Simple and sweet.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Garrison Keillor and "The Writer's Almanac"

Every morning, just before nine o'clock, WGBH in Boston runs a short syndicated feature from American Public Media called The Writer's Almanac. Garrison Keillor talks about a few notable literary figures born on this date and then reads a short poem.

When I happen to be driving to work around this time of day, I am always transfixed. I love Garrison Keillor, and I really enjoy the poems and the bit of history that he provides.

It's a small thing, in the scheme of media, about 5 minutes, but I really enjoy it.

Chickadee song

I love birds, but I'm no birder. In the spring, there's a particular song that just makes me think of spring. I didn't know what it was, but thanks to Tony Phillips of SUNY Stonybrook's math department, now I do. It's the song of the Black-capped Chickadee. This is distinct from the call of the Chickadee (the familiar chick-a-dee-dee-dee).

Thursday, March 02, 2006

One fat robin

Right outside my kitchen window, where I'm sitting right now, there's a very pretty hawthorn tree. And in that tree, lately, has been one fat robin.

I mean this bird is fat. He's the size of a softball. It's amazing that he can fly. He looks like one of those oversized cargo jets:

But that's not the simple thing that makes me happy today.

This blog has two regular readers: my wife and somebody in Boston who uses RCN for his or her internet access (Hi there!). And that's OK with me, because I'm writing this stuff for my own purposes.

But regular reader #1 wants to know how come I never write about her and about being married. Well, I love my wife and I love being married. I've never been happier in my life. But, and if you're married you know this, there's nothing simple about it. At great personal risk, I am going to list some of the simple things I like about being married:
  • I like knowing that there are people in the world who love me and care about me
  • I like knowing that there are people in the world whom I love and care about more than myself
  • I like not having to wash my own clothes
  • I like taking care of things, like keeping the cars safe and maintained, so that my wife doesn't have to
  • I like being able to go to work and really focus on what I'm doing, without needing to worry about who's taking care of my son
  • I like that my wife lets me have these quiet hours in the morning, and I like that on days that I go to work, she comforts my son if he wakes up early, even though I'm already up
  • I like that she lets me indulge my wants and desires without making me feel bad about them
So that's something (not) simple that I like.