Downtime: I'm just back online after some gnarly downtime...no Internet or email on the computer for almost a day. Ya hate that. But after several pleasant hours on the phone with my new friends Tanvi in New Delhi and Edward in Arizona and multiple reboots of the modem as mysterious tasks and functions were allegedly performed remotely, all is copacetic again.
But I could get email and Internet on the phone, which is cool. I'm finally coming around to the smartphone era—what, five or ten years late? BlackBerry introduced its original RIM 850 in 2003, and the first iPhone was introduced to great fanfare in 2007. I bought my iPhone 4s in 2011 to use essentially as a walkie-talkie with my son Zander, who connects to his friends via texting. (Cellphones, I must say, are a huge boon to parents of teenagers—you can reliably hear from them if you need to, which reduces those traumatic incidents when they're out of touch when they should not be, for instance when your 14-year-old has an 11 p.m. curfew and still hasn't shown up at 2:35 in the morning. The kind of thing that gives parents white hairs.) Recently, with my new phones not hooked up yet, it's been my only means of phone communication.
More about the iPhone issue soon—I have more to report.
Metzker books: John Hamann at the Nelson-Atkins bookstore reports that all the extra copies of Keith Davis's The Photographs of Ray K. Metzker have been sold. They got lots of requests. If you didn't get a reply, it means they can't supply you with a book.
Close call: We had a brush with death the other day. I was going to Ten Chimneys with my new girlfriend—that's the estate and house museum of the '20s-through-1960 Broadway actor stars Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne, a real gem of a tour for visitors to this area (I've actually done the tour three times now and enjoyed it each time)—when a car came careening across the centerline at full speed heading straight toward us, dragging a large construction cone halfway under its front bumper. I was able to detect quickly that its course was constant—the thought flashed into my mind that the driver must have fallen asleep at the wheel—so I could plan and execute evasive action in a second or two, and we missed the oncoming car and also managed not to hit anything else as we went off the road.
That'll wake you up. I looked it up, and the average reaction time you get before an automobile accident occurs is well under three seconds. It turned out the driver was having an epilectic seizure, meaning he was most probably driving illegally. He careened off the road and managed to come to a stop in some bushes, semi-conscious and drooling blood. A number of people stopped to help. Another car pulled up that turned out to be the man's sister, who had just happened by and saw the accident. She wasn't surprised that it was him and who didn't seem terribly alarmed by the event, which indicated to me that this was nothing new to her. Nice of the guy to take risks with my life and my friend's life as he blithely takes risks with his own—I hope they throw him in jail. (And I might try to follow up on the story.) We left after the second Sheriff arrived, none the worse for wear but considerably shaken.
Migrating: The soybean field in back of my house must be right on the migratory route; the Canada geese are using it as a stopping-station. This morning I was out in the back with the dogs when a cacaphony of calls and honking arose from the field, and waves of birds took to the air. My best estimate was that there must have been eight hundred to a thousand in that flock, but the flocks come and go all day and night. I went out just now with a camera, but the field was deserted. I should take a camera out with me each time I let the dogs out—even though I'm just going to my own backyard.
Admitting failure: Reader Andy Sheppard took personal offense at my "Small is Relative" post yesterday and went on to excoriate the entire enterprise (TOP, that is), and so I apologize to Andy.
...And that's the end of "Morning Comment" and the short and rocky experiment with a regular autoposted morning comment. Some things I'm good at, lots more things I'm not, and I'm not too proud to admit that something's not working when it isn't. Having finally made a positive virtue of the mercurial aspect of my interests and my chronic lack of an ability to plan, I hardly see why I should regularly set myself up for failure on purpose. The very core of TOP is to make readers feel welcome, not the opposite.
Moving: If I had known how much work it was going to be to move, I wouldn't have attempted it. It just never ends, and it's wearing me down.
Current experiments: The Jesper sit-stand desk has arrived, and I'm standing as I write these words. As a preliminary review, you do not want the "Value Desk"—you want the regular "Prestige Desk" in whichever flavor you think will work best for you (the 47" model would be just high enough for me—I'm 6'1"—and the 63" model provides plenty of leeway). If you can't afford the Prestige, take a pass. The Value Desk I got is more cheaply constructed and a false economy, although I guess I'm stuck with it now.
In more major self-experimental news, the Soylent has arrived! It's been a long wait, thanks to a New Yorker article that jump-started interest in the product and left the company scrambling to catch up.
Soylent is a food replacement that many readers consider crack-brained, but I think it's interesting and worth a try. For those who haven't heard of it, it's an attempt to create "human food" that contains all the nutrients necessary for a healthy and balanced diet, like futuristic science-fictional "food pills" that eliminate the need to eat. Lunch becomes a glass and a half of a vaguely malty-tasting, sandy-textured liquid. I guess I don't see this as being as insane as some others think it is, because it's intended to replace unhealthy meals in your eating schedule—that is, instead of having Doritos and a pint of ice cream for dinner, you have Soylent instead. If you're cooking from good ingredients, that's when you take a pass on the Soylent. It doesn't need to replace any of the good meals you normally eat. So its healthiness is relative. And really, who among us eats good, healthy meals three times a day, seven days a week? Those people must be the exceptions now, rather than the rule. I plan to go ahead and eat food whenever I can prepare good food from ingredients, and replace the extemporized, unplanned, blatantly unhealthy meals with Soylent.
(I've been experimenting on myself with multiple diets in the past two and a half years, so this is just one more. I've managed to drop 35 lbs. over that time, and at a recent doctor visit all of my health indicators had improved.)
The biggest downside to the name? Not the deliberately controversial connection to "Soylent Green," but the implication that it contains a lot of soy. It does have a little, but most of the protein is rice protein.
I'll keep you posted as to how it goes.
Parting advice: Stay vigilant in your cars, friends; things seldom go wrong, but when they do, they go wrong quickly.
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Bill Tyler: "Your close call brought back an experience I had about a year ago. I was driving home after an exhilarating morning out with a group of elephant seal researchers on the beach. It was a bright, clear crisp autumn day, traffic was light. I was approaching a group of bicyclists, and planning to swing a bit wide to give them plenty of room. Just then, a car coming the other direction swerved across the road, across my lane, up a dirt embankment to my right, and started down again, headed towards me. My attention was completely focused on avoiding a head-on collision. After our cars had passed without contact, I saw the bicyclist. He was lying motionless on the road, on a beautiful fall day, dead.
"The aftermath has not fully played out. Apparently the driver fell asleep at the wheel. I'm not sure what consequences he has suffered beyond a badly damaged car. For me, the experience was deeply disturbing. After calling 911, I had a hard time processing what I'd just seen. It's hard to describe how it's affected me. In one way, it's worse than the deaths of my parents because it was so sudden, so meaningless, so avoidable. Your driver was lucky. If he goes to jail, he'll still be lucky. It doesn't always happen that way."
Stephen Scharf: "When I read the description, I was skeptical about the concept behind 'Morning Comment.' What the point of it was wasn't clearly defined, and what value it would have brought to the TOP Community-At-Large wasn't clear either. I have to admit that thinking to myself, 'Not sure how this is going to go over...'
"On a positive note, however, I really enjoyed very much your Morning Coffee series of columns, and hope that you continue with those, in addition to the 'classic' TOP content. Just my 2¢."
Darr: "I am waiting on my sampling of Soylent, so please let us know how it goes for you. I am like you in that I purchased it for those times when I run out of prepared food. I am a vegetarian and do not always find the time or energy to use my juicer ahead of time for those busy days and tend to grab too many carbs."
IanM: "Moving. Things will improve, though it takes time. How much time? Think one and a half cycles through the seasons of the year. Then things will be normal (not the old normal, the new normal). The new place looks great and your writing about it tells good stories. It seems that the move to a new home has put you in a generous place in life. Relax into it and keep up with the thoughtful writing which makes TOP a premium blog."
Joe Holmes: "I'll be keeping an eye out for your updates on how it feels to work at a standup desk. I've had my Ergo Desktop Kangaroo Elite for about a year and a half (it's worked out really great), and I give two pieces of advice for those about to take the plunge: First, get a desk that does up and down easily. Days when I've been out walking for miles and miles, I come home and drop my desk to its sitting height. I might even keep it that way for a day or two. Then, up it goes. A good desk should go up or down in 30 seconds or a minute. If it takes too long, you'll never bother to change it. Second, a good foot mat is absolutely essential. I swear by my WellnessMats brand mat (I got the SmartStep Supreme). My back feels so much better since I switch to a standup desk."