Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Ground control to Major Tom

April 26th, 2015 · Comments Off on Ground control to Major Tom


This 1969 David Bowie song has always brought tears to my eyes. And so (for the same reason) does Elton John’s song Rocket Man.

Both these songs remind me of my brother Mark Devine (who died in 1998) — Mark never quite found a place on Earth that welcomed his big heart and maybe-too-bouncy spirit. Very, very early his imagination took off for some outer-space world of his own — only my mother’s hard work kept him still earth-connected as long as he stayed among us. It was not very long.

Mark, I have not forgotten you. So much that is best in me is what was best in you. So much that is worst in me is exactly what made you so angry with yourself so much too often.

Check ignition, and may God’s love be with you. Mine certainly is.

Comments Off on Ground control to Major TomTags: Heroes and funny folks · My Back Pages · Sister Age

When to the sessions…

March 30th, 2015 · Comments Off on When to the sessions…

PaintingFu
William Shakespeare knew a good idea when he saw it:

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past
I sigh the cost of many a thing I sought
But nonetheless recall… I had a blast!

Oh whoops, I seem to have strayed from Shakespeare into my own thoughts.

Just very recently home from a visit to China, which was amazing. Now very jet-lagged but with so many smiles at my memories.

Comments Off on When to the sessions…Tags: Wide wonderful world

Scientific diaspora

February 18th, 2015 · Comments Off on Scientific diaspora

Exiles in 1732, from Wikimedia Commons

Exiles in 1732, from Wikimedia Commons

The US in the 1930s and 40s inherited the educational wealth of exiled German scientists. In the 1970s and 80s, we inherited the scientific wealth of a disintegrating Soviet Union.

Now the US is headed toward the losing side of this equation.

Once we valued education and research. Now US funding for both gets worse with every passing year. Young scientists are hit hardest. Research and teaching jobs in the US are going away.

Frank and I were recently in China, where by contrast the government eagerly invests in universities and academic research. It hasn’t happened yet, but I think countries like China (and Sweden, etc.) are on the brink of inheriting the educational wealth of the United States as young people who want to do science become economic exiles.

Comments Off on Scientific diasporaTags: politics · Science

Landscape vs. skyscape: selective appreciation

January 27th, 2015 · Comments Off on Landscape vs. skyscape: selective appreciation

Arizona sunset
Our windows face east, so the best view we get of sunset is the reflection of colorful sky in the high-rise student apartment building not far from us.

I am not a big fan of modern architecture, but I am getting to love the many reflections of sky in the windows of University House.

One the other hand, enjoying a beautiful view may require the ability to ignore less beautiful parts of the view.

Or perhaps I could try to begin to admire the sight of vast acres of parking lot, low-rise cheap buildings, and macadam streets. That would also work.

Comments Off on Landscape vs. skyscape: selective appreciationTags: Travel · Wide wonderful world

Hotel fun, fun, fun till Daddy took the microwave popcorn away

January 18th, 2015 · Comments Off on Hotel fun, fun, fun till Daddy took the microwave popcorn away

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was a time when @frankwilczek was on sabbatical, so that the Marriott Residence Inn of Tempe AZ became our temporary home.

We spent fun time with our children in the Marriott Residence Inn of Austin, TX, over Christmas break. Contrary to what your image may be of Texas, this was a smaller location with smaller rooms and a much less useful kitchen (no actual oven, and double beds rather than queen size.) Still the presence of children makes up for a lot, and the nearby-ness of Austin’s amazing Drafthouse Ritz Cinema makes up for almost as much.

But I digress. The point of this blogpost is that the delicious hotel-provided free microwave popcorn here needs to cook for about 5 or 10 seconds less than the Popcorn setting on the admirable hotel-provided microwave oven. So that tonight, we ended up setting off our smoke alarm, which is very very loud. And which predictably caused the nice people at the front desk to call the Tempe fire department.

If you should experience this exciting event, here is my advice. Drench the smoking bag of popcorn under your faucet asap. This stops it from making new billows of black popcorn smoke.

Call the front desk (or send someone down there) to alert Tempe’s Fire Department that nothing is currently on fire in your hotel room. Turn on the fan of the microwave. Prop open the door to the hallway with one chair or even two. Open some windows. And the hideously noisy alarm will stop making noise.

Then you can smile quite complacently and write a blogpost…

I almost left out the best part! When I went downstairs to the front desk with my dripping, formerly smoking bag of popcorn, the very sweet people behind the desk (besides calling the Tempe Fire Department, etc.) asked me, “Would you like another bag of popcorn?”

I love you, Tempe Downtown Marriott Residence Inn!

Comments Off on Hotel fun, fun, fun till Daddy took the microwave popcorn awayTags: Frank Wilczek · funny · Pilgrimages · Wide wonderful world

Technology and progress: Past and present

October 29th, 2014 · Comments Off on Technology and progress: Past and present

My mother was 70 in 1988; my daughters 13 and 6.

My mother could remember when an electric iron and central heating were huge tech novelties.

I can remember my first pocket calculator (which cost a fortune!), and I remember how long I kept using my CRC handbook and sliderule anyway, not the new toy. I remember my first VHS, the freedom of time-shifting or just re-watching good movies. And my first home computer! But all those were commonplace items to my two daughters.

My daughters remember a time before there was an Internet; a time before smartphones, Siri, ubiquitous constant connection via the “cloud.” To their children, all those will be unremarkable facts, as commonplace as deliveries from the coal man and the ice man were to my mother’s household in the 1920s.

My mother was 8 years old when women got the vote. Soon thereafter, her aunts daringly drove from Northampton to Springfield in order to have their long hair “bobbed” by a barber. Oh, the freedom of not spending hours every day maintaining long hair — and oh, the wonderful freedom of owning a car!

All new technology pokes and prods our shared culture. Even despite some nostalgia, most of us would be reluctant to give up our latest new tech freedoms.

Here’s hoping the book that inspired these thoughts (The Second Machine Age, by Erik Bryniolfsson and Andrew McAfee) will provide more answers than I can now see by myself.

Comments Off on Technology and progress: Past and presentTags: geeky · Heroes and funny folks · Wide wonderful world · writing

Non-apology apology Bingo, with a hat tip to #DonaldSterling

April 26th, 2014 · Comments Off on Non-apology apology Bingo, with a hat tip to #DonaldSterling

BingoCard
Coming soon to a PR debacle near you… the carefully crafted non-apology apology that admits no guilt or liability for whatever it is that upset a whole lot of people but instead works to show the (alleged) wrongdoer is in fact the victim here, and anybody who judges said (alleged) wrongdoer is just as bad as the whistleblower(s) who made (alleged) misdeeds public. Or, in other words, worse than H****r.

Note the Creative Commons license that I pasted right on the bingo card, Internet people. Because it is mine and I made it. So don’t you go be worse than H****r because I am counting on Google to buy this from me for a million gazillion dollars.

Because Google might not need this Bingo card yet, but in the long run, Google, you’ll need it.

Comments Off on Non-apology apology Bingo, with a hat tip to #DonaldSterlingTags: Wide wonderful world

Wonderful world

March 7th, 2014 · Comments Off on Wonderful world

What a Wonderful World, sung by Eva Cassidy
When I listen to Eva Cassidy, already diagnosed with the metastatic cancer that would be killing her, singing at her final concert “What a Wonderful World,” my tears are not so much, or at least not only for young Eva Cassidy, but for all of us, so ready to love and create and be generous (if our early lives don’t take those hopes out of our hearts) but instead shunted off into harder and lesser and more painful lives than our childhoods imagined. And even then, our hearts keep hoping and dreaming of love and fulfillment. They keep looking for chances to give joy to people we love.

I have to say, if I were god, it would never in ten million years occur to me to create any hell to punish my people. Instead, my heart would be breaking daily to witness their courage, their generosity, their imagination. Instead of plotting dark hells for the people who did not worship me in exactly the right way, I would be knocking myself out to figure out how my god-powers could be used to stop suffering and to make people more kind and more joyful. But of course, this is me, Betsy, oldest of four children, who can advise even gods! (I still think I’m right though.)

Comments Off on Wonderful worldTags: Editorial · Good versus Evil · religion · Sister Age · Wide wonderful world

What hath Twitter wrought?

September 5th, 2013 · Comments Off on What hath Twitter wrought?

What hath Twitter wrought? by betsythedevine
What hath Twitter wrought?, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

Last week, Frank Wilczek asked Twitter if anybody knew the name of a very odd object (we posted a video) seen at Susty’s Restaurant in Northwood, NH.

Richard Askew (@ricaskew) not only knew the answer to Frank’s question, he also knew where Frank could buy kinetic forks for himself!

@FrankWilczek Kinetic Fork
www.littlegorgeousthings.com/kifobasc.html

Yesterday, Frank’s new toys arrived in the mail and this morning we took even more videos because … surely Twitter is waiting to see what we found!

Comments Off on What hath Twitter wrought?Tags: Frank Wilczek · funny · geeky · Metablogging · Wide wonderful world

Life in the Frank Wilczek lane

August 15th, 2013 · Comments Off on Life in the Frank Wilczek lane

Life in the Frank Wilczek lane by betsythedevine
Life in the Frank Wilczek lane, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

Doing my bit to get this little vignette added some day to a learned biography of Frank Wilczek:

Me: (sitting in living room, working on Internet stuff) (silence)
Frank: (sitting on porch, working on physics stuff) (laughing and laughing)
Me: (still in living room, not working) What? Oo, what’s funny, what?
Frank: (walking in from porch with open book in his hand, full of enthusiasm) It’s a great quote from Wittgenstein!

And if you didn’t know yet that he’s a sweet-natured guy, he agreeably posed for this picture with his great quote in view on top of the new Viking book he bought at the supermarket and is having fun reading.

Comments Off on Life in the Frank Wilczek laneTags: Frank Wilczek · funny · geeky · Wide wonderful world