Divestment: Week 2

Posted on August 27, 2008 by Steve

8/21: First missed day due to last-minute travel arrangements, so I have to cite my plywood/medical device double disposal last week.

8/22: Gabriel García Márquez, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, left on a bench in Fuengirola, Spain.

8/23: Hoyle Classic Games CD ROM left on a trash receptacle in Málaga Airport. It was a waist-high platform with a recessed metal top on which some food wrappers and napkins were conspicuously not exploding.

8/24: Home improvement handbook left by a home inspector seven years ago. Nice guide, but never consulted. Trashed.

8/25: Blue school binder found in basement. Salvaged a tube of 0.5 mm lead from a pocket and trashed.

8/26: Sony Discman portable CD player. Quite scratched up but worked the last time I tried it, years ago. Left in a stairwell with a note reading "free."

8/27: Two packages of souvenir coasters. There are probably enough coasters in our house to decorate every corner of every flat piece of furniture. Trashed.

Trip report: Málaga

Posted on August 27, 2008 by Steve

Ayda picked up a trip to Spain with a 48-hour layover last week. I felt it was my duty to support her career by accompanying her and helping her finish pitchers of sangria and platters of seafood. Standby travel is a sketchy prospect in August, but I made it out of New York and got the last seat coming back after a booked passenger failed to show.

Málaga is on the Mediterranean coast, about 90 miles east of Gibraltar. I tried to spot the Rock during our approach, but we were too far off and the geography was pretty mountainous. I thought of "Andalucia with fields full of grain" but the land was mostly brown, interrupted by what looked like olive groves. (The song was on my mind after hearing a piano version on Radio Paradise.) On the ground we got oriented with a map from the hotel and headed to the beach for a nap.

On our last trip to Spain, to Madrid on New Year's Eve, we were unable to find dinner around six in the evening because all the restaurants were closing, despite the throngs in the streets. This time the restaurants were all open, but it was difficult to find an available table, even after midnight. A festival was going on, and we managed to miss most of the activities but not the crowds. During the day we ate at the beach, enjoying fried anchovies (photo) and cheap beer. Evenings we went for reliable tapas, paella, and sangria.

There wasn't time for a lot of tourism, but we took the train to nearby Fuengirola on Friday for a nicer beach and more wandering around. The Spaniards seem to go for splashy public works, and a minor inlet that would hardly justify a wooden boardwalk back home was excuse enough for a fancy cable-stayed pedestrian bridge.

After sweating out the last hour before boarding at the airport, I settled in to my steerage seat and set out to beat all other passengers at Inflight Trivia Challenge. Monitors in every seatback are now powered by some flavor of Linux (I saw one endlessly rebooting) and provide movies on demand, games, and a flight-in-progress map. I couldn't top the all-time high score list, but took third place at 4600 and beat all my fellow passengers on the flight. I even bested CAPNJN in A1, the crew rest seat, on some Aviation category questions.

Divestment: Week 1

Posted on August 20, 2008 by Steve

Inspired by this divestor, I've begun getting rid of things, one a day, that would otherwise become inert ingredients of my eventual estate. Here's a report from the first week.

8/14: A small wooden box containing a button and a brass lamp pipe adapter. Left on a picnic table outside the office.

8/15: Three plywood planks left over from a furo project (instructions), and an ankle support brace. Left with the trash.

8/16: One cubic foot of gardening soil. Spread over front lawn with fresh grass seed (divestiture meets home improvement).

8/17: A hideous set of five (originally six) fragile multicolor spindly party glasses, unsuitable for use or regifting. After being moved from one basement nook to another for years, dumped without ceremony and with some relish into the kitchen trash bin, though I did pause to wonder if the plastic tray was worth saving.

8/18: A 12-pound dumbbell. Left on the sidewalk in front of Sports Authority.

8/19: One 30-watt Panasonic stereo speaker. Left out with trash. I couldn't stop myself from harvesting one tweeter for a refrigerator magnet, but now I regret my weakness and intend to throw it out later, along with the speaker's mate.

8/20: A foot-operated bicycle pump. Old and leaky, it required much finesse to get more air in than it let out, but it was still kept as a backup for a new electric pump. Trashed.

Vocabulary quiz

Posted on August 14, 2008 by Steve

Here's another quiz. I got up to level 49 in the time it took to score 1020 grains of rice. A lot of words were unfamiliar but came to me as a gut feeling, and it helped that the ones you get wrong are repeated a little later.

English game

Posted on August 14, 2008 by Steve

Codebox Software's game: fun! Five minutes given; guess common English speech units. Hard crafting blog entry without clues.

No Country for Old Men, on CD

Posted on August 06, 2008 by Steve

Having enjoyed the movie, and several other titles by the same author, I was pretty confident that I would not be disappointed by this book. But knowing that I would be reading it in my usual pattern of bits and pieces at odd moments, it occurred to me to get the recorded version and put my commute to good use. I used to listen to books on tape in the car, and at dreary data entry jobs, and was happy to find that many titles are now available on CD.

No stranger to the pleasure of the printed page, I count some books among my most treasured possessions. The soft, rounded corners of my old Modern Library paperback copies of Dostoyevsky, or the thick, creamy pages of Tufte's lovingly self-published volumes are an inseparable part of the reading experience. But the real joy of a novel is in the story, in the double life you lead for a few days or weeks while you secretly inhabit another world, worrying and wondering about characters you know more intimately than most friends.

The comparison between books and their film adaptations is often made, and films are usually criticized for what they leave out. One advantage the film has over a book is a set pace. You have to take action to interrupt a movie, but when reading a book each new chapter, indeed every page is an opportunity to pause and continue later.

The recorded book is a happy medium. A professional reader, as is typical with Books on Tape and Recorded Books, brings the words to life, literally giving voice to the characters. This alone is a vastly richer experience than the silent internal monotone in which I, at least, read to myself. Each morning and evening this week I am enjoying a private, intimate performance by Jeremy Irons. (Sometimes uncomfortably intimate, but that's for a later review.) By avoiding abridgments, nothing of the author's intent is lost. The pace may be a little slower than some people can read, but I find my attention more focused and rarely catch my mind drifting, as sometimes happens while reading.

Columnists wring their hands over the imagined, and to my mind unlikely, doom of the printed word in the electronic age. They should remember that writing is merely a proxy for speech, that the first stories were oral histories, and, after all, any technology that keeps books in circulation ultimately helps keep them in demand.